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Welcome to the Silicon Valley Linux Users Group

Linux - The Operating System of the 21st Century TM

If you're looking for where to get a copy of Linux...
See "Major Linux Distributions" at SVLUG's Link Farm.

What Is SVLUG?

The Silicon Valley Linux User Group (SVLUG) is the oldest and one of the largest Linux user groups in the world. It's a group of Linux hobbyists, professionals, and enthusiasts in the vicinity of San Jose, California, which is also internationally known as Silicon Valley. Our members share interests in Linux and free or low-cost implementations of Unix, as well as other open source software. The group was originally formed in 1988, as the PC-Unix Special Interest Group of the Silicon Valley Computer Society. SVLUG celebrated its 10th anniversary at the March 4, 1998 meeting, where Linus Torvalds addressed an audience of 500 people. 

SVLUG general meetings are held the first Wednesday of the month, installfests / workshops the 3rd Saturday of the month, and Hacking Society dinners/meetings the 3rd Tuesday of the month. General meetings are either technical presentations, product demonstrations, or general question and answer meetings. The Saturday installfests / workshops are your chance to bring in your computer and install the basic system, or work on more advanced features. The Tuesday evening Hacking Society meetings are "an experiment in collective open source hacking". All meetings are free and open to the public. Sign up for one of our mailing lists, to learn about local events and discuss Linux with local enthusiasts, or join ongoing real-time discussion on the irc.freenode.net "#svlug" IRC channel.

The People of SVLUG

History and Origins of SVLUG

The Silicon Valley Linux User Group (SVLUG) originated as a special interest group (SIG) of the Silicon Valley Computer Society (SVCS).
1988: The PC-Unix SIG is Born.
The first meeting of the SVCS Linux SIG was in March of 1988, long before Linux was invented. At that time, it was the SVCS PC Unix SIG, and we covered all Unix systems for PCs. We met at the AT&T Training Center in Sunnyvale. Our first presentation was a talk by Frank Shultz on Minix.

Our first big meeting was in June of 1988, where we had a panel of 6 Unix companies comparing their systems. At this point, 80286 support was very important, but some companies were starting to require an 80386. The most popular Unix was Xenix, but Microport was starting to take over.

1989 seemed to be the year that AT&T convinced everyone to resell their generic System V Rel 3.2, and the fight was to see who could make it cheaper. Everything would soon be COFF compatible, so every program would run on every Unix version. We had a several companies in to show us their products, but the price winner was Esix from Everex.

From 1989 through 1991, the group was popular because of the number of general Unix topics we had. We had industry experts give us interesting technical presentations on X, C++, networking, and other topics.

1992: Linux Emerges.
Early in 1992, AT&T closed down their Training Center, and we lost our meeting location. We moved to the Cupertino library. The meetings became more informal, with much fewer presentations. It looked like it could be the end of the SIG, but a new trend had started, and it looked like we could soon have a free alternative to Unix SVR4.

The first step in this new direction was a presentation in March of 1991 by Bill Jolitz, on his port of Berkeley Unix to the 80386. This was not the free version of 386BSD; it was based on some proprietary code that had to be re-ported later. Linus was working on Linux at the same time, but it was months before Bill and Linus found out about each other. Linux started getting out in late 1991, and, in March 1992, 386BSD was first distributed at an SVNet meeting (where most of us were also members). In April 1992, we had the first of a few big meetings comparing Linux and 386BSD. 1992 was the most exciting year for the group, with members deciding which free system they were going to take.

The fight for which system was best continued through 1993. In December, we had a combined meeting with SVNet, where we had speakers comparing Linux, NetBSD, and Coherent. By then, 386BSD itself was drifting away, because of lack of updates, and 2 groups, NetBSD and FreeBSD, were fighting for control. At the same time, there were many happy users of Coherent who were willing to spend $99 for a system that had a number you could call for support. 1993 was also the year Linux on CD-ROM became popular. Linux won over *BSD because of the "fear, uncertainty and doubt" about putting Net/2 on a CD-ROM and getting sued. In 1993, we lost the Cupertino library, and moved to the meeting room attached to the Carl's Jr. restaurant at First and Trimble, in north San Jose.

In February 1994, we had a meeting discussing the newly released NetBSD.

1995: Renamed the Linux SIG.
In 1995, we had mostly general question / answer meetings, with a few technical presentations by members of the group, and with people from the SoftCraft and Yggdrasil distributions. We evolved into the Linux SIG. About 30 people come to a typical meeting. The Web site was set up in July 1995, and has all the current info on the group.

1997: Renamed Again — The Silicon Valley Linux User Group.
In 1997, we continued growing with the growth of Linux. By the latter half of the year, every meeting packed the room with about 50 people.

A group of Linux users at Cisco Systems, who were mostly also attendees of the SVCS Linux SIG, set up a mail list called "SVLUG". They set up the first SVLUG "installfest" at a meeting room at Cisco. There was some discussion about whether this should be the same group or independent from SVCS. Eventually the decision was that they were the same group, and the "SVLUG" name was promptly used to rename the Linux SIG with a more current title. This also led to establishment of the svlug.org domain. The new Web site was on a small Linux server donated to SVLUG and hosted on the network at VA Research, many of whose employees were and are SVLUG members. The SVLUG mailing list was also moved from Cisco to SVLUG's new domain.

Toward the end of 1997, there was an ironic twist of events, as SVCS found itself in need of a new location to host its Web site. SVLUG was now in the position of rescuing its parent organization, and hosting it at the svlug.org server.

Also at the close of 1997, SVLUG held its first elections for President and Vice-President. Dan Kionka, who had founded the group as the PC-Unix SIG in 1988, stepped down after 10 years at the helm to give someone else a turn, and take a well-deserved break. In his place, the newly-elected president was Ben Spade, and the VP was Chris di Bona.

1998: Explosive Growth When Linux Finds Its Public.
1998 has proven to be a year of explosive growth for Linux, and SVLUG along with it. The newly-appointed speaker coordinator, Sam Ockman, took what was expected to be only a short departure from the tradition of having members speak each month about various interesting Linux projects. Instead, he lined up some prominent names from the Linux community. January's speaker was Linux pioneer H. Peter Anvin, talking about his "autofs" automounter for Linux.

February was the beginning of a transition period for the group. The originally scheduled speaker was Bruce Perens, coordinator of the Debian GNU/Linux project. Also, at the last minute, Eric Raymond was added to the list, since his paper "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" had been identified as the inspiration behind Netscape's just-announced decision to release its browser source code. To accommodate the expected crowds, some of the members from Cisco (in particular Ben Woodard) arranged to use the largest classroom at Cisco's Baypointe Training Facility in north San Jose. The room was maxed out to its capacity of 100 people, doubling SVLUG's previous attendance record.

That attendance record didn't stand long. In March, which was also the 10th anniversary of the founding of the PC-Unix SIG that became SVLUG, the speaker was Linus Torvalds, author of the original Linux kernel. Again, a bigger meeting room was needed, and the Cisco people came through again. With approval of Cisco's Chief Information Officer (CIO) this time, SVLUG was able to meet at the Gateway Conference Center at Cisco's headquarters in north San Jose, with seating capacity for 350. Even with the vast extra space, it was standing room only, as 500 people showed up to see Linus. (Chris di Bona wrote an article about the meeting in the June 1998 issue of Linux Journal and the April 1998 issue of Linux Gazette.)

That attendance opened the doors for more big speakers...

April 1998 Marc Andreessen Netscape founder/VP and 1996 Time Man of the Year
May 1998 Tim O'Reilly Founder and President of O'Reilly & Associates
June 1998 Larry Wall Creator of Perl
July 1998 Ben Wing Maintainer of XEmacs

2002: SVLUG Re-affiliates.
In 2002, there were problems reaching our corporate parent, SVCS, to discuss pressing issues, and that group was believed defunct (which turned out later to not be the case). Consensus was that SVLUG should affiliate with new umbrella group SBAY.ORG (South Bay Community Network), which would seek corporate status and become an umbrella for various ham-radio, open source, and kindred groups.

2005: New General Meeting and Installfest Venues, and Hacking Society.
After sudden loss of both our meeting space at Cisco Systems (which needed to reserve the Conference Center to internal users, after March) and of the installfest venue at Accent Technology (which went out of business in February), SVLUG leadership were obliged to scramble to find replacements. Thanks to generous funding by some individual Cisco employees, we were able to bridge the general-meetings gap with an April meeting at Santa Clara Convention Center, then found a new long-term home, starting May, at Veritas Software Corporation in Mountain View, later acquired by Symantec.

At nearly the same time, we were able to resume installfests at a Google classroom facility in Mountain View in April, thanks largely to the help and sponsorship of Google employee Mark Nielsen.

In June, we inaugurated the third of our ongoing regular monthly events, the Hacking Society dinners/meetings at a pleasant and relatively quiet pizza restaurant with wireless Internet access in North San Jose. Billed as "an experiment in collective open source hacking", they are opportuntities for coders and others to gather and work on open source projects in pleasant surroundings.

2006: SVLUG Goes Independent.
In the first quarter of 2006, SVLUG reviewed its SIG status with SBAY.ORG. SVLUG members voted at the March 1st meeting to not renew that status.

See the SVLUG Meeting History for more details.

SVLUG remains an informal organization, of which you may claim to be a member simply by attending a meeting or subscribing to a mailing list. There are no membership dues for SVLUG membership, and all are welcome.


The original author of this document was Dan Kionka. Details for 1997 and 1998 were added by Ian Kluft. Edits to reflect 2002-2006 organisational changes were made by Rick Moen.

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