Linuxworld 2008: Where are the crowds?

I attended Linuxworld this week for the first time. I wandered around the expo floor and also took a peak at a session or two. In fact, it was my first ever visit to a Linux conference. I must admit I was underwhelmed by the response. Frankly, I expected a better turn out and more enthusiasm. Instead I found it to be pretty low key.

The big wigs like IBM, Oracle and others were present probably to reinforce their commitment to open source . The were others like Haiku (the ghost of BeOS), VMware, OpenSuSE, One laptop per child (the struggling education project), Joomla, and Drupal (open source CMS) Zmanda for automated backups (they were using a Windows PC in the booth – sacrilege!), Opsview and Groundwork for Monitoring, among others. Here are a few others that stood out for me among the many exhibitors.

GoGrid for Cloud computing

This is an interesting company going head on against Amazon’s EC2. Check out a comparison table against EC2. The good news is that this company is dedicated to this business (starting with its parent company Servepath) unlike Amazon which treats EC2 as a side activity. (If you have ever tried reaching EC2 support you’ll know exactly what I mean).

KickApps (interesting social media)

This is an interesting web 2.0 social media product. If you are looking to build out your own community (say for your blog, company website etc.) with the ability to have groups, video upload, photos and the works, this could be a nice extension to what you already have in place. While the final output does look great and is loaded with functionality, one can’t help but wonder where this fits in along with the scores of other “community type” products. They have free and a usage based fee versions.

gOS (a slick, really really, pretty Linux on the desktop)

The gOS is a desktop Liunx (based on Ubuntu Linux) whose UI looks really pretty. On tiny PCs they look really cute to say the least. This OS was on the Everex gPC which was apparently sold out at Wal-Mart for $199. Essentially if you want use the PC for browsing, email etc. and can live with Open Office, this could do the job. Here is another one that is similar but offers you some cool premium features of a true WebOS.

Open Voting Initiative (Linux based voting machines)

There were voting machines based on Open Source technologies on display. Considering that the US is headed for another possibly close Presidential race maybe Open Source is the answer to the counting woes of Florida and the like.

It is a simple display where you click through a list of choices to cast your vote and at the end of it you get print out listing your vote all bult on standard PC architecture running Ubuntu Linux. For more information check out — Open Voting Consortium

One Laptop Per Child (OLPC)

I had read so much about the One laptop per child initiative and its troubles. For the first time I got a chance to see the machine. I must say I was disappointed to say the least. It feels like a cheap Chinese imported toy. I could still live with that if it was genuinely easy to use. But unfortunately I found most adults (including myself) struggling to use it. Maybe this is designed for kids and they can figure it out, or maybe its just me. Despite the most noble intentions behind this project and with all due respect, I can’t see this being widely used by kids.

Summary

I am not sure where this conference lies in the “pecking order” of Linux conferences but the attendance was far from impressive. (As per reports Linuxworld 2003 had 19,000 attendees!). If crowds are a metric to go by one can’t help but sense that the excitement about Linux (at least as far as conferences are concerned) has started to wear out though there could be a number of factors like over dose of Linux conferences, the downturn, etc. affecting the turn out. In any case, before you beat me down with your comments please read my disclaimer at the end of this post).

p.s: The Linux Journal magazine had a balanced and interesting article (registration required) by an educator who switched his school to Linux from Microsoft back in 2002.

Disclaimer: I have nothing against Linux. In fact, I have recently become a regular active user of Linux Mint. This post is an attempt to capture my impressions of the conference from a brief visit. Any errors in this post are probably a reflection of my personal limitations rather than those of Linuxworld or those of Linux lovers around the globe.

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