February 23, 2019

Frontline Report: Linux World Expo Turns Businesslike - page 3

The Pendulum Swings

  • January 31, 2002
  • By Dennis E. Powell

We should be pleased that Linux has grown to the point where companies like Compaq and Sun, as well as many of the others mentioned above, are willing to devote the time and money to participate to the extent that they are at this year's LWE. But that participation seems to have come at a cost, and I cannot see why.

Indeed, this year's show is remarkable as much for what isn't there as for what is. There are exciting new projects such as Gentoo and Linux from Scratch; there is a lot going on in KDE development and Gnome development; there are all kinds of projects of real value and interest, but from the point of view of Linux World Expo, they do not exist. This is understandable to some extent -- developers do not have the money to come to New York to show their work. On the other hand, there are a lot of deep-pockets companies involved in the Gnome Foundation. How tough would it have been for them to populate a little garden of machines that let people actually play with Gnome? How tough would it be to bring in a few developers, both the real gearheads and ones who are good at explaining it, to discuss what the project is, where it's going, and how to get started developing applications for it? The same holds true with KDE, the Linux kernel, and a multitude of other projects.

I very much fear that those great big companies forget the source of that code from which they hope to make money. It is true that the big guys are familiar with the management of big projects, and Linux is experiencing some pains with projects having grown to the point where they're hard to manage, but the innovation is not happening at the big companies, it's happening in some room where a lone programmer with an idea is beginning the kind of thing that will be a Checkinstall or Gimp-Print. And yeah, it's probably a young man who is listening to music that many of us would liken to the sound of a dental drill. He might well dress strangely and hold genuinely odd views of the world. When I got home from LWE a few minutes ago and checked the Web, I found a report that this year's LWE is all business, and people who are interested in fun and swag ought to stay home. Well, dammit, those are the people who made it possible for this conference to exist at all!

A few months ago, following the failure and near-failure of some Linux-based companies, the conventional wisdom was that future Linux conferences would be like wakes, very sad and devoid of content. Conventional wisdom was wrong, but something nearly as bad has taken place. The companies who could do real good by nuturing the climate that allowed things Linux to exist are now acting as if it sprang full-grown from nowhere.

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