LinuxTag 2000 summary
What follows is a summary that Christian Weisgerber
LinuxTag is the largest European Linux event. This year the show--affectionally abbreviated "LT2K"--had moved from the cramped confines of the University of Kaiserslautern to the trade show center in Stuttgart, Germany, and had been extended to a total of four days, June 29 to July 2. Some 100 commercial exhibitors and 25 Open Source projects occupied more than 6000 square meters of show floor. What had started out as a few enthusiasts presenting Linux and Open Source solutions has turned into a professional trade show, featuring big names like IBM, Compaq, and Siemens. Guests of honor were Richard M. Stallman, Illiad, and Alan Cox.
As in previous years, entrance to the show floor was free, as were the talks on Friday to Sunday. Only the Business Track of presentations on Thursday was subject to registration and a hefty admission charge. Altogether, there were some 100 presentations covering a wide range of Linux and Open Source related topics. The show floor was open from 09:00 to 18:00 (16:00 on Sunday).
Total attendance was 17,000. The event proved a complete success for all parties concerned. Jolt Germany, who had cleverly set up camp in the passage from the main entrance to the first exhibition hall, sold every single can of Jolt cola they had brought.
My talk on Saturday (Room 2, 14:00) went quite well. I gave a basic introduction to BSD, explaining the differences or lack thereof as compared to Linux, and generally tried my best to answer in advance the primary questions Linux people always ask when confronted with BSD. Competing against Torben Weis' KOffice and Anselm Lingnau's Tcl/Tk presentations, I saw some 300 people show up.
Subsequently (Room 3, 16:00), Thomas Graichen presented a performance comparison covering Linux 2.2/2.4, Solaris 7/8, FreeBSD, NetBSD, and OpenBSD. Thomas had done painstaking work to ensure that the results were reproducible and to avoid a variety of typical pitfalls. Still, the findings turned out to be highly questionable. For example, nobody believed for a second that the *BSD's I/O throughput as measured with the bonnie benchmark is really an order of magnitude better than Linux'. Obviously, more work is needed. Thomas is still to be lauded for what was very likely the largest investment of time and effort of all speakers and his courage to present such a flame-triggering topic.
Thursday night there was a party at the Frontsite booth. I'm afraid I still don't know what this company offers, and some malicious tongues suggested that even the employees don't seem to know, but the free beer and cocktails were widely appreciated.
To facilitate socialization between exhibitors, speakers, and organizers, Friday night featured the official Social Event. 600 tickets had been given out, and attendance seemed fairly complete. An empty exhibition hall had been furnished with tables and a catering service had set up an appropriately sized buffet. There were ample amounts of cold and warm food, fruit, sweetmeats, etc. The beer was top quality, and so was the wine I'm told. I met a lot of people I knew from previous LinuxTags and similar events.
A young woman, who had garnered some moderate notice during the day due to the amounts of clothing she wore or rather didn't wear, turned out to be a singer who presented the organizers with a song. I kind of failed to understand the connection between love swooning and LinuxTag, but it was a decidedly nice idea by some exhibitors who understood just what amount of work had gone into making the whole event come true. Afterwards, Richard Stallman was persuaded to perform his Free Software Song. "Share the software..." Well. The rendition was somewhat better than the audio file floating around on the net. Then the woman tried her voice again at a Mariah Carey tune. There was tongue-in-cheek disagreement over who sang worse, Stallman or the girl, but general consent that she had the far better looks to her favor.
Saturday night saw another booth party, but we decided to skip that one in favor of getting something to eat in town.
Food and sleep are for wimps. If you ever had to pull booth duty, you will probably know what I mean.
We arrived on Wednesday to set up the BSD booth, which was a three by three-meter cubicle in the Open Source Pavilion. There were several FreeBSD machines on display, including an SMP one and an Alpha, a variety of boxes of moderate age showcasing NetBSD, a MicroVAX II running 4.3BSD Tahoe, and a Sun and a couple of notebooks under OpenBSD. Norbert Meissner had fashioned stickers from several popular BSD logos. Setting up went smoothly, contrary to some commercial exhibitors who had been working till three in the morning as we learned the next day.
On Thursday, Wim Vandeputte arrived from Belgium with a trunkload of OpenBSD paraphernalia: shirts, the first 2.7 CDs available in Europe, posters, caps, and even daemon's forks. This greatly improved the looks of the booth and visitor attraction. Wim turned out to be a superior salesman as well. I understand he also managed to talk some of the present manufacturers into donating hardware to the OpenBSD project for driver development. We'll see what comes out of this. The booth also sold 150 CDs burned on the spot. These were mostly FreeBSD 4.0 for i386, but also a few for alpha and some NetBSD 1.4.2 ones.
Thursday started out somewhat weakly as expected, but on the subsequent days there was plenty of visitor interest. All those BSD shirts served to draw attention. I'm told that traffic at the booth also increased after my talk. I think we were quite successful in spreading the BSD message. In fact, our booth was "booked" for a (much smaller) Linux event later this year in Feldkirch, Austria.
Relations with the people from the other (mostly Linux) Open Source booths were great. There was a general sense of comradeship and not a trace of hostility in either direction. It also bears pointing out that the BSD booth smoothly united people from all three BSD projects without rivalry.
Some time after his wife had already picked up a FreeBSD CD, Alan Cox, Linux kernel hacker incarnate, dropped by at the booth and we had a brief chat. Surprise, Alan already has a FreeBSD box for comparison purposes. Apparently there are some secret communications between Alan and FreeBSD's Matt Dillon with regard to VM development, and Alan suggested that the FreeBSD and Linux VM handling will converge over the next two or three years.
After five days, the dominating feelings were exhaustion and a general sentiment of success. Many exhibitors already promised to return for LinuxTag 2001 and the venue will continue to provide sufficient space for a few years to come. Clearly, BSD should again be present, too.
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