On Wednesday, October 5th, my alarm clock went off at an exceedingly uncivilized hour, whereupon I quickly donned some clothes, hurriedly grabbed some breakfast, all in order for me to race to an early train so that I might arrive at Hall 2 in Olympia, London for the 9.30 a.m. start of the 2005 LinuxWorld Expo. I arrived a few minutes early, and due to my registering for the event earlier through the internet I had a pre-printed pass in hand representing a waiver saving me the £15 registeration fee. I waited, said pass in hand, eager with anticipation, huddled together with a few other visitors outside while we watched the exhibitors put the final touches on their displays through the glass doors. At last the doors opened, and we surged in to savour the delights and thrills within.
Upon entry we discovered the show took up two floors. On the ground floor all the exhibitors had set up shop, and downstairs the “lower ground floor” was host to various conferences and talks together with the all important cafe. As I was to be attending the Fedora Users and Developers Conference on the following day (the 6th October) I concentrated my efforts on the exhibition itself, and generally “chewing the cud”, “pressing flesh” and performing other social functions at various vendor and volunteer stands.
Advocacy group advocating... GNU/Linux!
The expo floor
Rather than go through a detailed list of all vendors and what they had to offer, which is nothing but a boring recital anyway and can easily be obtained from the LinuxWorld London expo web site, I will attempt to relay the atmosphere and the general ambiance of the event.
A street in the Dot-Org village
The expo floor was divided into two halves—on the left were the commercial players. These consisted of companies such as Novell, Oracle, HP (who had reallocated their space to some of their partners), RedHat, Sun, Dell and numerous others. On the right were the "Dot-Org” village sponsored by UKLinux.Net. Here were organizations like GNOME, KDE, Ubuntu, PostgreSQL, Debian and other free software volunteer based organizations. One thing I did notice about this was that these two halves of the exhibition seemed to be functioning far closer this time compared to previous expos. The “Us-and-Them” attitude, although still present, was far less prominent than in previous events.
The “Us-and-Them” attitude between the commercial and “dot-org” parts of the expo, although still present, was far less prominent than in previous events
Important work being done at the Sun stand
I noticed a particular feature that I feels epitomises the above. Wookey’sEmdebian stand is a frequent and well known feature of the dot-org village, and this year he was not only present as usual but was accompanied by a couple of guys from Simtec, dressed in suits and ties, who looked as though they would be more comfortable in the “commercial” section of the expo. They were demonstrating and trying to sell their ARM thin client product based on the Emdebian product. Such a mixture of the “commercial” and “voluntary” aspects of GNU/Linux is creeping more and more into the fore.
Free software at the Ubuntu stand
It seemed none of the vendors had a “fan-fare style” launch of a new product or service that they were saving for the event. If they did, I missed it. However the major players did give some “mini presentations” on their own stands. These, by and large, simply re-iterated their publicised marketing, which I don’t repeat here. One of these I feel worth mentioning though was one issued by IBM on the RedHat stand. The IBM representative, in return for a “RedHat” baseball cap with the HP logo on it (oops), insisted that we listen to him give an in-depth presentation of their "Linux on Power" project. This was well presented, informative and focused—a big change from the London Planetarium a couple of weeks prior (covered in my last newsletter article for Free Software Magazine).
I would like to tell you of an encouraging change I noticed at this event. When I first started going to GNU/Linux events, while the presenters were talking about how wonderful GNU/Linux was, they were using Microsoft’s PowerPoint to do so. As time has passed I have noticed that more and more of the presenters used free software applications like OpenOffice.org’s Impress program to deliver their message. At this show the only Microsoft Windows I saw were by vendors who were demonstrating the cross-platform nature of their products—and even they switched to GNU/Linux in their “normal” selling mode. So, for the first time at one of these events, every presentation I saw used a GNU/Linux desktop—and yes, I was checking.
For the first time at one of these events, every presentation I saw used a GNU/Linux desktop
Reports that Microsoft would be there were confirmed. (Editor’s note: For those not familiar with the British cult classic TV series Doctor Who, this figure depicts one of the good Dr’s enemies—one of the evil robots “the Daleks”. The Dalek were known for their catch-cry “Exterminate!... Exterminate!... Destroy!”.)
After expo-hours get-togethers
At the end of the (first) day, two evening events occurred concurrently. A formal(ish) dinner was organized by the Linux User and Developer Magazine and others for various vendors and those who wished to attend. Various free software awards were handed out including one for Alan Cox who received a special lifetime achievement award. More detais of that event can be obtained from the award’s web site. At the same time a trip to the pub had been organized by Lonix (London Linux Users Group) for those of us who preferred that type of evening or simply did not want to spend money on the more formal dinner. I, who like to associate myself with the geeks of this planet, went to the latter, and I can report a good and merry time was had by all, and judging from the state of participants of the dinner the following morning, a good time was had by all there too.
The more observant will spot a well known kernel developer here
To sum up: it was, I think, the best GNU/Linux expo I have ever been to. Also, despite the fact it didn’t seem to be the largest turn-out, the Debian lot almost sold out of T-shirts. People were upbeat and positive about GNU/Linux. In previous expos the message seemed to be “Isn’t this new GNU/Linux great, look at the things that can be done in the enterprise”, and the message this year I heard was “GNU/Linux is currently being used in all of these wonderful ways in the enterprise, we are basing our strategy on it and this is where we are taking it”. I felt visiting the show was well worth my time, and I will do my best to engineer my timetable so that I can participate, one way or another, next year on the 18th and 19th of October 2006.
“GNU/Linux is currently being used in all of these wonderful ways in the enterprise, we are basing our strategy on it and this is where we are taking it”
Edward Macnaghten has been a professional programmer, analyst and consultant for in excess of 20 years. His experiences include manufacturing commercially based software for a number of industries in a variety of different technical environments in Europe, Asia and the USA. He is currently running an IT consultancy specialising in free software solutions based in Cambridge UK. He also maintains his own web site.