ALS was put together by the Atlanta Linux Enthusiasts, the local Linux user's group in Atlanta, Georgia. The show began on Friday evening, June 6 and ran through Sunday afternoon. More than 500 people attended. The report following this one by Todd Shrider covers much of the show, including the talks.
I want to thank Amy Ayers and Karen Bushaw for making their photos available to us with a special thank you to Amy for getting them scanned and uploaded to the SSC ftp site.
I spent most of my time in the Linux Journal booth giving away magazines and talking to show attendees. One aspect that made this show special for me is that I didn't spend most of my time explaining that Linux is a Unix-like operating system to the attendees. Instead, I got to discuss Linux with experienced people with thoughtful questions, letting them know in the process how LJ could help them. Each attendee was truly interested in Linux and stopped at each booth in the show. I expect attendees appreciated the low signal-to-noise ratio in the booths; that is, conversations were solely about Linux.
On Saturday night there was a roast--no, I didn't change from a vegetarian into a meat eater overnight--we were roasting Linus. That is, a group of people presented interesting stories about Linus, intended to only slightly embarrass him. At the end of the evening, I felt that the roast had been successful in every way.
In front of a crowd of about 115 people, Eric Raymond, David Miller, Jon "maddog" Hall and I got to pick on this Linus character. Topics varied from Linus almost being hit by a car in Boston because he was so engrossed in talking about a particular aspect of kernel code, to the evolution of the top-half/bottom-half concept in interrupt handlers and to why Linus was apparently moving from geekdom to becoming a "hunk" sportswear model. (See the cover of the San Jose Metro, May 8-14, 1997.)
Maddog finished the roasting by telling a few Helsinki stories and showing a video that included Tove's parents talking about Linus. A good time was had by the roasters and the audience and, as Linus' closing comment was "I love you all," we assume he had a good time too and wasn't offended by our gentle ribbing.
The show came off very well. I consider this sucess an amazing feat for an all-volunteer effort. The ALE members plan to write an article for Linux Gazette about how they made this happen. We'll also make this information available on the GLUE web site. I would like to see more shows put on by user groups. The local involvement, the enthusiasm of the attendees and the all Linux flavor of the show made this weekend a great experience. We are already thinking about a Seattle or Portland show and would like to help others make regional shows a reality.
Take a look at the ALS Photo Album.
I first started writing this article in my hotel room late Sunday evening (or early Monday morning) planning to get just enough sleep that I would wake up in time to catch my plane. The plan didn't work--I missed my 6:00 AM flight out of Atlanta. I did the second draft while waiting for my new 9:45 AM flight. The third draft came (yes, you guessed it) while waiting for my 1:30 PM connection from Detroit to Dayton, also having missed the previous connection because of my first flight's late arrival. Suffice it to say, I'm now back home in Indiana and still enjoying the high received from the Atlanta Linux Showcase.
Thanks to all the sponsors and to our host, the Atlanta Linux Enthusiasts user group, the conference started with a bang and went off without a hitch. The conference was a three day event, starting with registration Friday and ending Sunday with a kernel hacking session led by none other than Linus himself. In between there were numerous conferences found in both a business and technical track, several birds of a feather (BoF) sessions and a floor show. These events were broken up with frequent trips to local pubs and very little sleep.
This was my first (but not last) Linux conference, and I found that an added benefit of ALS was meeting all the people who use Linux as a viable business platform/tool. (These same people tend to be doing very cool things with Linux on the side). From companies such as Red Hat to Caldera to others such as MessageNet, Cyclades and DCG Computers, it was obvious that many people have very creative ways to make money with Linux. This wasn't limited, by any means, to the vendors. Many of the conference speakers talked of ways to make money with Linux or of their experiences with Linux in a professional environment.
All of these efforts seemed to compliment the key-note address, World Domination 101, where Linus Torvalds, called for applications, applications, applications. Did I say he thought Linux needed a few more useful applications? Anyway, he pointed out the more or less obvious fact that, if Linux is going to be a success in a world of commercial operating systems, we need every application type you find in other commercial operating systems. In other words, if you're thinking about doing--don't think--just do it. Another thing that Linus pointed out, and that I was glad to hear echoed throughout the conference, was that Linux needs to be easy to use. It needs to be so easy that a secretary or corporate executive could sit and be as productive as they would be with Windows 95. We need to make people realize that Linux has gotten rid of the high learning curve usually associated with Unix.
Something pointed out by Don Rosenberg, while speaking on the "how-to" and "what's needed next" of commercial Linux, was that we are now in a stage where the innovators (that's us) and the early adopters (that's us as well as the people using Linux in the business world today) must continue to push forward so that we can get a group of early adopters (the old DOS users) to take us seriously. In Maddog's closing remarks he urged us all to find two DOS users, convert them to Linux and then tell them to do the same. As a step in this direction, today I introduced a local computer corporate sales firm to Linux; whether they take my advice and run is left to be seen, but believe me, I'm pushing.
The rest of the conference was filled with business and technical talks. The business talks included things such as Eric Raymond's "The Cathedral and the Bazaar", talks on OpenLinux by both Jeff Farnsworth and Steve Webb and "Linux Connectivity for Humans" by none other than Phil Hughes. Lloyd Brodsky was on hand to talk about Intranet Support of Collaborative Planning while Lester Hightower brought us the story of PCC and their efforts to bring Linux to the business world. Mark Bolzern spoke of the significance of Linux and Bob Young talked of the "process" not the "product" of Linux.
The technical discussion track started with Richard Henderson's discussion of the shared libraries and their function across several architectures. Michael Maher gave a HOWTO of Red Hat's RPM package management system and Jim Paradis discussed EM86 and what remains to be done, so that one can run Intel/Linux binaries under Alpha Linux. David Miller then followed giving a boost of enthusiasm with his discussion of the tasks involved in porting Linux to SPARC and Miguel de Icaza took us on a trip to the world of RAID and Linux. We convened the next day to hear David Mandelstam discuss what is involved with wide-area networks and Mike Warfields anatomy of a cracker's intrusion.
All in all, the conference was a huge success. What I might suggest as an improvement for next year is more involvement from the vendors (or maybe just more vendors), a possible sale from the vendors of their special Linux wares to the conference attendees and a possible tutorial session like the ones seen at Uselinux (Anaheim, California, January 1997). Other than that, a few virtual beers (I owe you Maddog) and lots of great geek conversation made for one wild weekend.