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Red Hat Tour Seeks Feedback From Community - page 2

Red Hat, Hoosiers, and Food

  • November 7, 2002
  • By Brian Proffitt

I sat down with Hogan near the end of the visit, as an impatient Cookie started rounding the up the team for the next leg of their journey. Tired, but excited, Hogan described this trip across the nation as something very important for Red Hat.

"We're nothing without the community," he emphasized.

Hogan exudes a little pride for the trip thus far. He can; it was his idea to begin with. Before the release of Red Hat Linux 8.0, he felt that it would be important to hand-deliver the release to the Linux community and get their take on this release. At the same time, Hogan explained, Red Hat's team "would get involved with more of what's going on in the community."

I came back with a question that had been nagging me though the course of the event: by visiting Linux groups and Linux users, wasn't Red Hat just preaching to the choir?

Hogan's response was to explain that by going out and sharing Red Hat 8.0 with Linux users, the team hoped to create a sort of synergy about Linux as a viable alternative for the desktop to others outside their immediate circle of Linux users. And, by the way, they would happen to have copies of Red Hat 8.0 to demonstrate to potential users how integrated a Linux desktop could be.

"This is more like street marketing," Hogan said.

Hogan stated that right now there was a perception out there that once Red Hat became enterprise-oriented, they would soon forget about the community. Hogan, and every other member of the team, repeatedly emphasized that this was not the case.

On this trip, he added, "we're doing a more than just preaching. We're doing more listening." Like McDermott, Hogan is hoping to get a lot of feedback on 8.0, and hopefully glean enough common themes to take back to Red Hat developers.

So why the sudden change? Customer-oriented or not, up until just a few months ago, no one in commercial Linux was talking about the desktop. Every once in a while this summer, I mentioned to Hogan, people I would be talking to from Red Hat would ask me questions about what I would think of this or that on the desktop. Clearly, something had changed mid-year at Red Hat to drive them in this direction.

"The time had just come," Hogan stated. "People were just begging for it, and the things had just come together on the desktop." Things like look and feel, font management, configuration tools, and package dependency tools, to name a few. Once all of these things began to click, Red Hat felt comfortable enough to put more energy into a desktop product.

Along the way, they created the Bluecurve theme, the look and feel for KDE and GNOME that makes the desktop managers look so much alike. Hogan anticipated my next question, saying that he was aware of the criticisms about Bluecurve.

"Red Hat is about choice, like anything else in Linux," Hogan said. "Our choice is this environment." But, since Red Hat is pure Linux, he added, users would always be free to change the theme, change the environment, or even the window manager however they wanted.

Linux now gave the traveling crew a huge advantage as they spread the word, Hogan said. "Linux is accessible and Linux never looked so good."

Cookie hovers impatiently over the table; there are miles yet to go, and there was another planned stop in Illinois that evening. More are yet to come.

There are few opportunities to deliver direct feedback to the larger distribution companies, so any chance such as this should not be a bad idea. If the tour gets near you, you might want to swing by and deliver your message to Red Hat. And, if you ply them with cookies, you will very likely get the answers you seek as well.

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