Enterprise Unix Roundup: Even Linux Isn't Linux

By Michael Hall (Send Email)
Posted Aug 4, 2005


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OSCON traditionally emphasizes trend, not product. By placing Solaris panels in the Linux track, could the conference be on to something? For spring cleanup on HTML docs, HTML Tidy is cross-platform and simple to deploy.

Michael Hall

Amy Newman

For the first two days of O'Reilly's Open Source Convention (OSCON), if you walked around the convention center between breaks you might have thought it was a colossal snooze-fest. Those accustomed to the circus-like atmosphere of some conventions might have thought they'd arrived a week early. With the exception of a few geeks lolling around on inflated chairs in the halls, there was no one to be seen.

Flip open a laptop, peer up with the wireless network, and fire up a Bonjour-compatible chat client, and the story changed: There were plenty of people all over the place; they were just tucked into the numerous tutorials, hands-on sessions, and discussions.

OSCON has a dozen topical tracks, ranging from Apache to "Emerging Topics" to XML. The major open source scripting languages (Ruby, Perl, PHP, and Python) each get a track, as do Java and Linux. All the tracks meet for every session, at the rate of six or seven sessions per day.

We sat in on a few sessions and picked up a comfortable, two-way vibe that was less about a hard sell than disseminating information. There are clearly corporate sponsors here and there. Novell, for example, has largely adopted the Mono project, but Mono has its own developer community and probably does not need Novell as much as Novell seems to need Mono.

So given the developer-centric, laid back, muted proceedings, we can't rattle off a list of products to look for. OSCON is the kind of show where you go to spot trends, not stuff to buy. But to talk about one anomaly in the schedule, we first need to leave the showroom floor and visit the Mexican restaurant where we had lunch.

It was a typical Mexican place, with every Jarritos flavor we're aware of and a sweating tub of horchata. The waiter was very friendly, and he leaned close to read our press badge.

"Open source? So ... that's like that Linux?"

Perhaps even more telling: the Linux portion of the Wednesday keynote was a fairly by-the-numbers recitation of where Linux is at and how the older developers are dealing with the increasingly corporate flavor of kernel development, whereas the "fireside chat" with Sun's Jonathan Schwartz had the audience engaged.
Yep, it's "like that Linux," except at this year's OSCON, even Linux wasn't like Linux. It had its own track, but it had to give up a few sessions to Solaris. Perhaps even more telling: the Linux portion of the Wednesday keynote was a fairly by-the-numbers recitation of where Linux is at and how the older developers are dealing with the increasingly corporate flavor of kernel development, whereas the "fireside chat" with Sun's Jonathan "Just Being Quotable" Schwartz had the audience engaged.

As much as we've made an effort in this space to document where Schwartz's occasionally flamboyant rhetoric leaves us scratching our heads, we've never really accused him of having a dearth of common sense. So if he felt free to tell the audience that operating system "religion" is a pointless distraction, and if they didn't pelt him with plush Tuxes (which we didn't really see laying around, anyhow), it's safe to assume it wasn't a bad thing to say to that crowd.

To a room full of developers who came to town to learn more about what runs on top of a given operating system than about the operating system itself, being told that OpenSolaris is just as capable of running an application built around AJAX isn't cause for upset. As Yahoo's Jeremy Zawodny had told the same crowd just 10 minutes earlier, his company has been running FreeBSD since its earliest days. In other words, just about any Unix will do. And, to judge from the occasional pious laptop reboot from Windows to Linux we spotted in the opening moments of a few sessions, Windows seems to do on occasion, too.

Schwartz, who spent much of his time talking about open source business models, endured some mean humor at the expense of StarOffice when he compared it to Microsoft Office ("We're going to find new ways to make money on something that's slow and buggy?" cracked the moderator). But when the perennial "when's Java going to be open source?" question came up, the laughter in the audience was more convivial than ugly.

But where LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL & PHP) was the rallying point for developers building yesterday's Web, the concerns of those developers are shifting away from the simple considerations of slinging pages and moving toward "Web 2.0," which has a slightly more refined agenda. An agenda that doesn't call for making sure everyone is using the same operating system.

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