Reviews of SVLUG/Taos "Future of Linux" Panel

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From: Ian Kluft <ikluft@cisco.com>
Subject: [svlug] Impressions of "Future of Linux" panel (long)
To: svlug@svlug.org (Silicon Valley Linux Users Group)
Date: Wed, 15 Jul 1998 17:09:34 -0700 (PDT)

For those who couldn't make it, I'm going to try to record some of my
experiences at the "Future of Linux" event.  Sneaking in bits at a time
since last night, this has taken a while to write up.

Setup Frenzy
------------
I arrived early (5PM) to help with setup.  After looking around the Santa
Clara Convention Center, I found it.  Taos Mountain, VA Research,
MicroCenter, and the convention center crew had apparently already been
there for hours already.  The place was starting to take shape.

As a member of SVLUG's executive group, I was one of several trying to make
sure everything came together.  We had so many people's plans coming together
at once that I was among several of us who just went around finding the most
critical problems and getting them solved.

I started out by helping move the boxes of give-away T-shirts to the table
where they would be distributed.  Then a convention center staffer came
with a cart full of heavy boxes and he wanted to know where to put them.
The tag said they were for SSC, so I figured they were full of either CDs
or magazines.  We took them to the SSC table inside (as a guess) and I
signed for the shipment.  I found Phil Hughes of SSC (Editor of Linux
Journal and moderator of the panel) and he helped us get them to the right
place.

At this point, Linus walked by and observed the setup efforts and said hello
to Phil.  I asked him, "So, are you ready?"  He replied, "Of course not,"
but then clarified that you couldn't really prepare much for something like
this.

At some point people started saying, "Have you seen the line out there?"
After hearing that a few times, I went to check.  It went around the
corner... When I went to see how far, it went around the next corner.
It went clear across the convention center!  The thought crossed my mind
that at the rate it was moving, some of those people would never get in.

I asked the people at Taos' registration table to try to speed it up.
Marc Merlin (who is both with Taos and on the SVLUG executive group) saw
the same problem and went looking for Mike Masterson, Taos' coordinator
for this event.  We eventually found him in a conference room where the
panelists were being informed of the format.  Mike made what I think was
a good decison, with only 10 minutes left before starting time and no way
to register everyone for hours, to give up on the registrations and let
everyone in.

What had been a stopped line became a flowing crowd.  Everyone got in and
there were even a few seats to spare.  Taos said they arranged for another
partitioned section of the convention center to be added to enlarge the
room, and apparently it was just enough.  I heard that registrations had
been around 880 on Monday.  The crowd was huge but at least the expansion
avoided the standing-room-only nightmare that we thought was possible.

The hundreds of Linux T-shirts were all given away before the event began.

The Main Event
--------------
I want to start by saying I really appreciate the participation of everyone
on the panel.  Well done!  Thank you!

Introductions and welcomes were made by Mike Masterson of Taos and
Ben Spade of SVLUG.  Mike went over the schedule and the format of
the event.  Ben introduced SVLUG and got across the point that SVLUG
has no membership dues with an amusing approach...

Ben: "How many of you are SVLUG members?"
[it looked like more than half of the group raised their hands.]
Ben: "How many of you are not SVLUG members?"
[a little less than half raised their hands]
Ben: Now while you've got your hands up, repeat after me: "I am a member."
[laughter]

When the panel began, each of the panelists talked for 5 minutes on their
view of how far Linux has come and where it's going.  Then it opened for
questions from the audience.  The panelists then each made another 5-minute
talk on where they think Linux will be in the next 2-3 years.  Phil Hughes
of Linux Journal asked the panel some questions, stating ahead of time that
he's not doing his job unless he makes them squirm a little.  Then there
were more questions before it closed.

Robert Hart of Red Hat seemed to strike a point that recurred during the 
event.  He said that Linux is making a lot of progress but it's still not
yet to the point that he'd put it on his mother's computer.  Jeremy Allison
agreed but said Linux is going there real soon now after his last
long-distance call to England to talk his brother through reloading the
computer after Windows crashed and trashed the disk.  Later in a question
from the audience, Graham Cole, a Georgia Tech student and new SVLUG member,
got applause when he started his question with a comment that his mother's
computer does run Linux.  This very quickly became the benchmark by which
the participants measured Linux's entry to the mainstream... when will it
be ready for Mom's computer?  The consensus seems to be no later then 1999,
based on progress and momentum in the KDE and GNOME projects to make a
simpler user interface.

I noticed very strong words of support from Intel.  Intel's Sunil Saxena
said that Linux has the best device drivers of any operating system on
the Intel platform.  He also said that Linux will run on the upcoming
Merced processor.  He also pointed out the impressive achievement that
VA Research was demonstrating in the back of the room a 4-processor Intel
Pentium II Xeon system running Linux.  The Xeon chip has just been released
so this is surprisingly early to see multiprocessor demos on any operating
system.

Larry Augustin said that one of VA Research's engineers changed 12 lines
of code in the Linux kernel to port Linux including symmetric multiprocessor
support to the Xeon for the demo which was in progress in the back.

I've seen one report in the press that described this as a pep rally for
Linux.  It's not inaccurate, considering most of the room was either Linux
supporters or media reporters.  (BTW, even the media in general got some
kudos since we've been seeing much more good, accurate reporting recently.
Their strong presence here was a sign that they're catching on to the
significance of Linux.)

In the final questions, Phil Hughes pressed the panelists for where Linux
will be in 2-3 years.  Intel's Saxena (reasonably) declined to make an
estimate since Intel has to show support for other operating systems too.  
The others all seemed to be confident that Linux will continue to at least
double each of the next several years, resulting in numbers ranging from
20-40 million installations to 25% of PCs.  

The event was over two hours long so I can't write it all up.  But I
hope this overview helps for those who couldn't make it.

After the event was over, the press seemed to crowd around the front
table and were questioning Linus for a long time.  This obviously got out
too late to get into this morning's papers.  It's already showing up on
the web and hopefully we'll see it in the print and broadcast news tonight
and tomorrow.

Long after the event was over, SVLUG and BALUG split the remaining copies of
Linux Journal that had not been given away.  We'll each bring them to our
upcoming Installfests in San Jose (for SVLUG) and San Francisco (for BALUG.)