Greetings From Jim Dennis
This is going to be a great year for Linux.
I was at a Fry's (a chain of computer stores in California and around the west coast of the U.S.) in Palo Alto a couple of weeks ago. They had Loki games for Linux at the endcap of one aisle, boxes of Corel's new Linux distribution at the end of another, and copies of _Linux_Unleased_ at the end of another. As Heather and I wandered past the a components wall we heard a customer insisting that he needed a "100% Linux compatible" motherboard. While I was browsing the magazines, Heather brought over a store employee who she heard telling one of his co-workers that he needed to go study Linux 'cause he was hearing so much about it. When we were in the check out stand the guy next to us was buying a copy of TurboLinux 4.0 and a small stack of books to go with it. (No, I didn't see copies of my book there yet. Darn!).
[ I brought that employee over to give him my business card, after answering a handful of his questions. Business is booming for Linux consulting, too. -- Heather ]
That was just a short trip to the store to get some party supplies (hosting some cypherpunks from the RSA conference). We wanted to special lighting.
While we were there we also picked up a couple of little UPS power strips (CyberPower Systems http://www.cyberpowersystems.com) for a couple of the workstations around the house. These were only about $70 each and there were the only ones in their price range that have serial connectors for UPS power management. This wasn't important for Heather and I, but we figured it would be a nice feature to play with. I figured that there wasn't much chance for there to be a Linux driver in the package (there wasn't) but there might be some freeware already done (there is).
The gist of this is that the Linux software for this peripheral is readily available, linked to the manufacturer's web site and that it probably offers more utility and better security than the included proprietary software. (Also the fact that Alberto Maria Segre's powstatd package is open source means that our *BSD cousins can use it and that future operating systems will find it that much easier to support).
[ Chances are pretty good that FreeBSD's support for Linux binaries would run it directly. It's probably more important that our cousins on non-Intel hardware, whether running Linux, *BSD or something else, will be able to recompile it. -- Heather ]
(I went back to a different Fry's last night and picked up a copy of "Heroes of Might & Magic III" for Linux, which was ported by Loki Software http://www.lokigames.com. They had Linux copies of Civilization, Quake III, and Railroad Tycoon. They also had plush stuffed "Tux" penguins all over the store).
To many new Linux users this may not seem remarkable. However, to those of use who started using Linux back in about '92 it's pretty incredible.
Last month I was looking through Microtimes and Computer Currents (a couple of freebie local computer "newspapers" which are almost all advertising for regional computer stores; they each have SF Bay Area and Los Angeles editions). I noticed that many (about 25%) of the ads for computers systems now mention Linux (and FreeBSD in some cases).
Of course, some people would hasten that the Silicon Valley isn't middle america, and Fry's isn't the venue for "Joe Sixpack." However, it's hard to deny that this is happening in other places, too. (Linux is particularly popular in other countries, particularly Europe and Asia). I seem to recall that IDC or Gartner recently had to revise their estimates of how fast Linux was growing --- especially on the desktop/client side.
I've experienced another indication of Linux growth over the last few months. When I first started doing the "Answer Guy" column I received an average of 30 questions a month. Now I get about 50 per week!
(Sorry I can't answer them all. I don't even have a "fair" or sensible way to pick which questions I answer. Basically I answer them when I see them or set them aside and hope for a night when I'm watching TV and have idle fingers).
Some people might complain that "answer guy" mail volume is not a representative sampling of overall Linux usage. It could be that I'm getting more popular among the existing Linux userbase. Who knows. I'm just a sysadmin, support guy and sometimes writer.
But this sure looks like a good year to be a Linux geek from where I'm sitting.
Of course anyone who wants to look into it for themselves can point their web browser at http://www.google.com and search on the string: "Linux market research" and read what lots of other people are saying on the subject).
Makes me glad that I'm such a "curses curmudgeon." The truth is that the main reason I chose Linux is because Microsoft was pushing MS Windows so hard. I don't like GUIs and for a long time I couldn't afford a monitor that was big enough to display a reasonable working area (for an environment that insists on cluttering half of the available space with menus, titles, scroll bars, status lines, icon ribbons, ruler bars and other crap that I don't need to see) and that had enough of a refresh rate to let me work for hours without that exhausting flicker.
So, I decided to Learn UNIX so I could still do most of what I wanted in "text mode" (through a terminal if necessary). I grabbed a (used) copy of Coherent and played with that enough to do the basics. From there I started reading the alt.os.linux news group (just after its split from alt.os.minix, which I also used to read). Eventually I got access to enough bandwidth to download my first distribution (SLS). Later I bought my first Linux on a CD (Yggdrasil).
[ Although we know what happened to it (others became more popular by updating faster) I swear I still don't know what happened to its author, Peter MacDonald. Even the Linux CREDITS file has no address for him.
There was an excellent article on the early distributions in Linux Journal, Issue 2. -- Heather ]
But enough about the past. Now about the future. I don't know any more about the future than anyone else. However it does appear that I'll be in New York at the LinuxExpo that'll be going on there from February 1st through the 4th. My co-authors should also both be there, so come on my the Linuxcare booth or hunt me down in the hallway track or at the BoFs (birds of a feather meetings).
[ Hey, let's keep that straight. It's LinuxWorld conference and expo in New York ... they couldn't take the URL "linuxworld" because Linux World magazine already had it. They did manage to snag "linuxexpo.com", but "linux-expo.com" leads to Linux Expo 2000 is in Paris, France, on the 1st through 3rd of February.
It's hard to tell, but I think it's the same parent group running it, so maybe that makes it less wacky that they're on the same dates (essentially competing with each other). Apparently even the conference folks agree, there's enough Linuxers to go around.
I ask, would it have been too hard to offer "paris.linuxworldexpo.com" and "newyork.linuxworldexpo.com"? I'm getting really tired of seeing entire domains squished into the tiny existence of "www" being their only visible host.
And before anybody asks, no. We're NOT going to both shows. -- Heather ]
Hope to see you all there.