Originally Published: Saturday, 25 November 2000 Author: Ryan C. Gordon
Published to: daily_feature/Linux.com Feature Story Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Comdex Postmortem

The lights, the casinos, the glamour! Ryan Gordon descends on the gleaming shine of Las Vegas for the fall session of Comdex. Will the strip survive?

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I want to let everyone that is still fuming about their Red Hat stock know that life isn't so bad.

I drove up to Las Vegas for the Fall session of Comdex last week. I hadn't registered yet, and, according to the website, the only way to get in for free at this point was to show up at 7:00a.m. to register. What the website neglected to mention was that the show itself wouldn't open for another three and a half hours. So there I was, in one of the few locations in America where the word "illegal" is never uttered, with hours to kill, nowhere to be, and my ATM card. The logical conclusion, of course, was to hit the Hilton's casino.

Taking a cue from Budweiser, the ATM machines display a warning that you should remember to gamble responsibly, and then charge you 2.50 a pop. The guy at the ATM next to me balked at the idea of paying such a high service charge, but I laughed it off. I never count my money when I'm sitting at the table; there'll be time enough for counting when the day is done.

Three hours later, when the rest of the Loki crew found me, they dragged me screaming from the roulette tables. "No more gambling, Ryan," Andy told me as he untangled me from the slot machine I had latched onto.

Being down by twelve thousand dollars and the deed to my car, I just wanted to remind all of you Red Hat stock owners that it could be worse. Then again, unlike you stock market hosers, you can bet your life I'm going to win it back next time I go up there to Vegas.

Oh, I forgot; there was a computer expo going on, too.

I want to say something nice about Comdex, but I can't find a single good thing to say about the show. It was boring. It was equally as loud, gaudy, and assaulting as the rest of Vegas, but there weren't any scantily-clad waitresses to bring me free drinks. The casinos are more honest, too; above all else, they want to take your money and could care less about you as an individual with wants and needs. They don't make any qualms about this practice, and that's fine; this is your contract with Las Vegas when you buy your chips. The thousands of companies listed in the Comdex brochure, however, do effectively the same thing, but deceitfully: take your money, all the while saying that you, the customer, are important to them. Anyone that has ever sat on hold at the Microsoft tech support line will understand what I'm driving at here. Microsoft had a big, pretty booth, by the way.

There was also a "Linux Business Expo" going on at Comdex, which was an official title for anything Linux at the show. I wanted to get the behind-the-scenes look at how Free Software was making money, so I snuck into the exhibitor's registration line. Naturally, I didn't want the sneak-into-the- exhibitor's-registration-line police to come and bust me, so I gave them a fake name. If you ever find yourself here, just remember that the registration form wants your last name first; it's pretty embarrassing to have to get a correction on a badge that says "Pucknut Michael." Maybe I should find a more normal pseudonym, but that's what it takes to get the exclusive breaking story, I guess, and if nothing else, I am a hardcore journalist.

With my newly-corrected exhibitor's badge, I had full run of the Linux Business Expo's showfloor. As I looked around, I noticed that this was a very different show than LinuxWorld or even the Atlanta Linux Showcase. Comdex's Linux expo was a watered-down version of a true Linux showfloor; it was the Diet Coke of Linux shows.

The usual suspects were corralled off in a corner of the Sands hotel, where they had all the prestige of a segregated school. More than one exhibitor told me that they preferred to be stuck in a random hallway, like last year, because it gave them a chance to sell their act to people that would never have consciously sought them out.

This year, the upgraded Linux booths were quarantined to a small, out of the way corner, behind the French and Koren Comdex pavillions, in a section that you needed to register for separately, in which you were harrassed upon entry and exit, in which not even the people presenting were thrilled to be.

The notable booths were the standard Red Hat, Suse, and Corel attractions that anyone familiar with Linux tradeshows has seen a thousand times. Other booths were rehashing what was fresh from LinuxWorld in San Jose; HelixCode and PocketLinux were there, showing the same cool product with the same cool freebies, but this was nothing new, and certain couldn't carry the show on its own anyhow. Others, like VA Linux, were conspicuously missing. I was the only one there wearing a badge from a VA company, and that was because I lied about who I work for to get an exhibitor's badge.

The magician from SGI that I ripped on a few articles ago was at Comdex, pimping for TurboLinux, with roughly the same act. Don't believe that the only prostitutes in Las Vegas are on The Strip.

Linus Torvalds was there too, and made a fly-by on the expo-within-an-expo. I happen to have broken into the exhibitors' lounge while he was in there having a cup of coffee. To see him just hanging out was a bit of a surprise, and I leaped at the fabulous opportunity for an exclusive Linux.com interview with the man himself.

"So, Linus--can I call you Linus?--you are usually treated like a modern-day messiah at trade shows like LinuxWorld. It's hard to catch a glimpse of you for all the fans and reporters trying to say hi, get a picture with you, or even just touch your sleeve. How does it feel to be at a show like Comdex, where the focus is not on Linux, and the companies that support the technology you fathered are not celebrated, or even acknowledged, for the most part?"

"I am so lonely. I hate my empty, loveless life."

"Excuse me?"

"Can you just hold me?"

At this point, Transmeta agents, dressed in black, came in and escorted me out of the room. I did manage to get proof that I met Torvalds, as I grabbed ahold of the bagel he was eating during the struggle. Unfortunately, it looks like any other bagel with a chunk bitten out of it, so you'll have to take my word for it that I didn't just pick it up from that all-you-can-eat buffet in the lobby of the Vacation Village hotel down the street. It's starting to smell funny, too, so I'm looking to sell it off as a collectors item as soon as possible. Since my "problem" in the casinos, Loki felt it was best to set a precautionary firewall against all access to eBay, so I can't seem to get the bagel up for auction. It's a shame, too, since the sale would surely fund my pre-IPO embedded Linux company, which would specialize in putting Linux in your toaster. After all, I think it's time to stop wasting my money on all this foolish gambling and invest it in something with a guaranteed result.

Ryan C. Gordon is big pimpin', spending G's. If you wanna roll wid' him, bust a cap at icculus@lokigames.com, yo.

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