I have to admit I’m out of my element here. Standing at the base of the red carpet splayed out from the side of West San Carlos Street, staring up to the San Jose Convention Center, I am struck with a sense of the unfamiliar. I am within the breath of Silicon Valley, and within this realm, Linux is part of the norm. Linux is on the side of the mass transit system. Linux is listed in the free computer magazines. Linux is everywhere! I feel oddly out of place. Why? Simple. I come from a land where Linux is still the mark of the Geek (what is binary for 666?).

Linux, in my homeland of Louisville, KY, stands well outside the populaire cercle. In direct contrast to this picture is the West Coast—the birth of BSD and UNIX—where Linux has found its home! And is it ever sweet!

The growth of an expo
The LinuxWorld Expo beast has come a long way (even from the recent Raleigh-Durham developers expo I attended only a year and a half ago). Back in Raleigh, NC, the feeling was that of the underdog battling its way in an attempt to pull itself from the looming darkness of obscurity. This expo was rife with young coders typing fingers to bone on worn, painted, and LNX-adorned laptops that looked, for the most part, as if the machines had been pulled out of some IT director’s trash. It was electric. Deals were made, friendships were developed (as well as code), and Linux was all or none.

Then came New York City! This expo sidestepped the developer world in lieu of the end user and found itself gasping for the breath it once had. Here, there was no sense of underdog! Linux had found a modicum of acceptance, and, quite frankly, it had no idea what to do with itself. All the geeks and their camouflaged laptops no longer were the darling children of the movement. Now we had VA Linux and a big shiny Red Hat IPO! Now the Linux community stood center stage and all it could do was call “Line.”

Unfamiliar territory breeds many things: animosity, tension, fear, anxiety, and a certain sense of loss. Would it kill the momentum that Linus and all the thousands of developers had—against nearly impossible odds—fought and won? If my first impressions of the newest LinuxWorld Expo are correct, the answer to that question would be a resounding NO!

As I look on at the list of venders, speakers, and sponsors who have gathered for the fourth LinuxWorld Conference and Expo, I am struck with a feeling of relief. Take, for instance, the keynote speaker situation. Raleigh-Durham gave the spotlight to Bob Young (then CEO of Red Hat Linux), and New York’s center stage was handed over to Linus (for some strange reason I want to type his name as Linux—go figure) Torvalds (then, and still, creator of Linux). Makes sense. Two of the most highly recognizable names within the Linux community.

San Jose, however, is bringing a new face to Linux—one that has typically been linked to the Wintel market: Michael Dell, chairman of the board and CEO of Dell Computer Corporation. Mr. Dell has earned more titles and awards than most and is now leading his company into the land of Linux! Certainly an award for the humble Linux community.

It doesn’t end with the speakers
The proof is certainly in the pudding! This LinuxWorld Expo is huge. The estimated attendance is well over 20,000, and walking into the exhibition hall is like walking into the Oz of the IT industry. Present for the main event are 3dfx, Compaq Computers, Corel Corporation, Dell Computer, Hewlett-Packard, IBM Corp, Inprise-Borland, Intel Corporation, PC Magazine, Seagate Technology, SGI, and Sun Microsystems, Inc.—to name just a few of the biggies (and that doesn’t even mention the BIG Linux vendors on site).

Such a list, one would be inclined to think, reads more like a Windows convention than a Linux Expo. Fortunately, times are a’changin‘. Linux has grasped the golden ring and refuses to let the glaring eye of the community rip it out of its hands!

The foredrawn conclusion
As I stand here on the red carpet and think back to the days of the Raleigh-Durham convention, I am filled with a child-like sense of elation knowing that Linux will only continue its forward motion. Linux has found its place and will waddle its penguin feet deeper into the hearts, minds, and pockets of the IT industry!

I am now preparing for my first interview of this expo—Mandrake! As the week progresses, I will attempt to bring to you a smattering of what’s happening and what’s to come. It may sound a bit like I’m evangelizing (when am I not?), but then we all need a bit of truth here and there. I look forward to bringing you the news from the front—from the Linux front!

Now… on to Jean-Michel Dault and Linux Mandrake!