Enterprise Linux Log

Sep 25 2009   5:33PM GMT

LinuxCon: From desktop discussion to community involvement

Leah Rosin Leah Rosin Profile: Leah Rosin

LinuxCon 2009 wrapped up on Wednesday evening with an Intel-sponsored party at McCormick and Schmick’s in Portland, Ore. This was the final, and flashiest of three evening events that occurred during the course of the event. Monday night featured “Bowling for Penguins” at Grand Central Bowling, a fundraiser for Defenders of Wildlife that raised $3,000. Tuesday night featured a Linux Fund hosted dance party sponsored by SourceForge and iXsystems, and in possibly the most hero-worship twist (or is it twisted hero-worship?) of the conference, live streaming of Linus Torvalds playing billiards was broadcast via Linux Pro Magazine.

All agreed that these events were good fun. The VooDoo Doughnuts and local wine/beer/vodka/sake tasting was also a smash hit for those attending. For those unable to attend, the livestreaming of keynotes offered by Linux Pro Magazine was appreciated. The recorded kernel panel discussion is now available for on-demand viewing.

Nonprofits using Linux to stay competitive
Beyond the kernel roundtable, the most popular keynote was given by the vice president of information services at Sesame Workshop, Noah Broadwater. If you’re unfamiliar with hearing about Sesame Workshop in tech circles, think Elmo. The group won an Emmy for New Approaches in the Children’s Daytime television category for their associated websites, Web casts and interactivity. Broadwater explained how his organization reuses older Solaris boxes as a testing environment and open source software in the development itself. Using this approach, the nonprofit’s Emmy-winning website came in under budget at less than $3 million. The Sesame Workshop holds onto their new development advances for a two-year period and then contributes them back to the community, in an effort to protect their work from big-budget competitors.

The future of Linux on the desktop
One of the broad themes that was touched on at the conference was Linux on the desktop. Multiple speakers discussed the topic, giving predictions for its success and advice to the larger community about how this might be realized. IBM’s vice president of open source and Linux, Bob Sutor talked about the options – the desktop goes away as people begin to expand their use of mobile devices or the Linux desktop could eventually gain parity with Windows and Mac. Perhaps, as Windows declines in popularity with each more complex release, we could see a rise in Linux desktop popularity. Joe “Zonker” Brockmeier, openSUSE community manager talked about the lack of marketing and suggested that shipping Linux pre-installed on more laptops would be one way to make it accessible to more users. Then there was the entire Moblin track at the conference, presenting the “future” of Linux on the desktop. Finally, Mark Shuttleworth, the founder of the most popular Linux desktop flavor, Ubuntu, spoke at the conference. He advocated having a shared cadence and coordination between projects and distributions, as well as improving quality and design.

“We definitely shouldn’t give up the desktop,” Shuttleworth said. “This is one of the most exciting years for the desktop in living memory.”

More on Shuttleworth’s talk can be read in an article by Sean Michael Kerner at internetnews.com: Shuttleworth: Don’t give up on the desktop.

Diversity in the Linux community
Another broad theme was that of diversity in the Linux community. Carla Schroder wrote on Monday afternoon that the Linux “community” didn’t look very diverse. And the topic of the involvement of women in the community was brought up more than once. Starting with Linux Foundation President Jim Zemlin’s keynote in which he pointed out that there is a 100:1 ratio between men and women in the Linux community. But the incident that got the most attention was Shuttleworth’s gaffe during his keynote. ( Full disclosure: I was not present at the time of Shuttleworth’s presentation, and therefore cannot speak to the specific wording or context, but others were.) His statement of women not understanding Linux was enough to get a quickly drafted letter from “Geek Feminism” blog author, Kirrily Robert.

Community sharing
I can’t begin to cover all the things that went on at the inaugural LinuxCon. Most agreed it was a good time and well done. For some other perspectives, here are some other attendees opinions and blogs following the show. I will update it or you can add new links to blogs in the comments below.

Practicality shines at LinuxCon 2009 by Phil Odence, Black Duck Software

LinuxCon Review: It’s all about community by Dawn Foster, Fast Wonder Consulting

LinuxCon Audio Diary 1 and LinuxCon Audio Diary 2 by Dan Lynch of Linux Outlaws

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