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LinuxWorld Expo New Haven for Corporate Users, Vendors

The New Breed of Expo Attendee

January 26, 2003

"Hey, don't you know running a Mac in here is grounds for dismissal?" said the voice that cut through the fog of killing off all the spam in my e-mail.

I blinked and looked up to see a middle-age-ish gentleman standing in front of my bench in the Crystal Palace, the euphemistic name for the South Concourse of the Javitts Convention Center. He was smiling, so I figured he was doing little more than killing time between conference sessions, and looking for a conversation.

Regardless, I had some time of my own to kill, and spam-wading was getting boring. "I don't think that's the case these days, but anyway, I'm running Linux on this," I replied, tapping the big yellow sticker on the back of my iBook. The sticker, thoughtfully provided by Yellow Dog Linux, was my big warning sign to all who might wish to hassle me for bringing non-Linux machines into LinuxWorld Expo.

I still remember the anquish of dealing the with Windows-loaded booth PCs that Javitts provided for LWE exhibitors two years ago. I could not get Red Hat loaded fast enough in the booth I was helping. I ended up loading it in several other booths that year for panicky marketing people who were getting hassled by sloppily-dressed youngsters with penguin-sized chips on their shoulders.

Thus far, the YDL decal had done its job deflecting the hardcore geeks (though there weren't many to speak of in this year's show). In fact, earlier in the show when I was running the OS X side of the partition (because YDL was having a hiccup with the wireless network in Javitts--it turned out I had mis-typed the WEP key), no one bugged me then, either. This was a small sign of how un-geekified this show had become.

But now I was contending with this person in front of me.

"You can run Linux on a Mac?" he asked, looking a bit doubtful.

"Sure can," I replied, spinning the screen around so he could see what was running: Ximian Evolution atop the KDE 3.0 desktop. "It's called Yellow Dog. It's a PowerPC version of Linux."

He was pretty impressed, enough that I knew he was new to Linux. I was (pardon the pun), more prophetic than I realized. He hadn't really seen any Linux desktop up close. He plopped down next to me and I proceeded to walk him through the interface.

I explained some of the fundementals of X, what window managers were, what desktop environments were about, that sort of thing. I showed him Mozilla, and KOffice, and more of Evolution. He asked about an office suite he heard ran on Linux, and I told him that was OpenOffice.org. I surfed over to that site as I was explaining what OO was, and said that while I had not installed it yet on this machine, I used it at home and thought it handled most Office docs pretty well.

"You know, I had heard they could get Linux to run on anything, so I guess that's true," he said, sitting back. I glanced at his name tag: Rob K-something or other--I just caught a glimpse. Before I could ask his name and occupation, he was up off the bench, thanking me and telling me he had a meeting to attend. (I think he saw my media badge and got edgy--or maybe it was what I'd eaten for lunch.)

This conversation, though, sticks out in my memories of last week's LinuxWorld Expo, which are all a blur of press briefings, booth visits, and conversations held while walking down the aisles through crowds of people. It sticks out because Rob was someone who was clearly new to Linux, eager to engage total strangers to learn about it.

But there was a lot more going on at LinuxWorld, quite a bit of it behind the curtain.