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Economy On An Uptick, Say Some .Orgs

Suits and Sandals Invade the Pavilion

  • January 30, 2004
  • By Jacqueline Emigh

The tech economy is finally on an uptick, if the .Org Pavilion at a Linux show is any sort of litmus test. Interviewed before the close of last week's LinuxWorld NYC 2004, project members reported spotting a mix of suits and sandals.

Several booths got more visits this time around from potential business dealmakers, but nobody complained about that. The Debian booth drew lots of traffic from Red Hat users seeking Fedora alternatives.

"LinuxWorld NY seems to have picked up quite a bit since last year. A number of people have stopped by who want to make business partnerships," said Jeremy Garcia, founder and site administrator of LinuxQuestions.org, a free Web site that answers users' questions about Linux. The site runs forums about Red Hat and Fedora, Arch, Debian, Mandarake, Slackware, Conectiva, and other distributions, for example.

"We got an audience that's very aware of technology. There were lots of real business people here, not just kids," said Francois Letellier of the ObjectWeb Consortium. ObjectWeb, an industry alliance for building open source middleware, has vendor members that include Red Hat and MandrakeSoft

"It was a lovely show--much more vibrant than last year's. The whole thing gave us a really good start on 2004," according to Marty Connor of EtherBoot.org, a project that hasn't missed a single LinuxWorld over the past three-and-a-half years.

EtherBoot ran live hands-on demos of its software, which is geared to creating ROM images that can be downloaded over an Ethernet network for execution on x86 computers.

"We had lots of traffic, because our developers are so talented and handsome," joked Connor, who is also president of Entity Cyber Inc., a computer and Internet consulting service.

Turning more serious, Connor said that visitors to the booth included developers and end users, as well as businesses "We are what allows people in the corporations to do what they do."

LinuxWorld also brings together .org project members from all over the world. "A lot of people have been stopping by our booth and saying, ´┐ŻOh! I use your stuff all the time,'" noted Peter Lister, another EtherBoot project member, who'd flown into New York City from the UK. EtherBoot's software is typically used for booting PCs diskless.

OpenACS (Open Architecture Community System) debuted at LinuxWorld San Francisco last summer, before appearing in New York last week. "New York is a lot less geek-oriented," acknowledged OpenACS's Patrick Giagnocavo.

"In Manhattan, you get a lot of Wall Street companies and enterprises, which are looking at Linux as a replacement for other platforms. In San Francisco, on the other hand, it's totally about development tools."

"It's good to see such interest in Linux among the suits," chimed in Talli Somehkh, also of OpenACS. OpenACS produces an open source tookit, available under the GNU GPL, for building scalable, community-oriented Web applications.

Like some of the other booths at the East Coast venue, however, Debian did lure plenty of developers and end users.

"We've been getting a number of disillusioned Red Hat users, who don't like the changes in Red Hat's business model. They now have the choice of either shelling out for Red Hat Enterprise Edition or using Fedora. We've also seen the usual smattering of first-time Linux users," according to Debian's Phil Blundell.

"We're not trying to say, though, that Debian's business model is better than Red Hat's. It's just a different model," cautioned Jaldhar Vyas, also of Debian.

Some attendees were curious over Debian's packaging techniques, added Matt Taggart of Debian. Others asked questions about support for multiple operating environments.

In another part of the pavilion, the Mambo Open Source booth acted as a magnet to "everyone from kids to 78-year-olds," said the project's Steven Pignataro. "They've all been very knowledgeable." Mambo is a dynamic Web content management system for Linux, BSD Unix, Windows, and Macintosh OS X.

Some project members at LinuxWorld did point to economic disparities in how the open source model is being approached. "I've noticed here at the show that a lot of large companies are also running open source projects--but, of course, the businesses are charging," Pignataro pointed out.

"In a way, the .Org pavilion is a throwback to feudal times, when people banded together to build tools so as to avoid being serfs to the wealthy landowners," quipped EtherBoot's Connor.

"The wealthy landowners of today are being civil to us, at the very least, because we hold tools that they can use."

Not everyone was pleased with the outcome of the show, though. One unhappy .orger said that visitors to his booth provided very few useful business leads. Instead, most of the people dropping by were "very young," and mainly interested in T-shirts and other paraphernalia.

About 20 .orgs were slated to exhibit, all told. Others included Gentoo Linux; Gelato; OpenOffice.org; Linux Terminal Server Project (LTSP); K Desktop Environment; Bastille Linux; Geekcorps; Vovida.org; Common; Linux Test Project; Open Source Development Lab (OSDL); Xorg; New York PHP; and NYLUG.

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