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|Originally Published: Tuesday, 14 August 2001||Author: Jessica Sheffield|
|Published to: interact_articles_lugs/Articles||Page: 1/1 - [Printable]|
Community Voices: Celebrating Ten Years
Need an excuse to party? Look no further! Linux10 celebrates ten years of Linux with a picnic in Sunnyvale Baylands Park. Get caught up with Ian Kluft and Drew Bertola in the midst of preparations for the event and check out their amazing story of collaboration and community not to develop source code, but to organize a picnic for over 600 people.
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1991: "Hello everybody out there using minix..."
2001: "What's Minix?"
Linux10 (http://www.linux10.org) celebrates ten years of Linux. Check out the website for more information on how to RSVP, order a T-shirt, and find out how your Linux group can be a part of the festivities.
Ian Kluft and Drew Bertola, two of the event's organizers, took a few minutes off from ordering T-shirts, planning transportation, coordinating the guest list, and other event details to tell us a little about Linux10.
Linux.com: How did you get the idea for the event?
Ian: Back in February it occurred to me that since Linux was started in 1991, it was going to have its 10th anniversary this year. I asked on the SVLUG mail list if anyone had plans or wanted to make some. I suggested Aug 25. Because it was when the community got involved, there wasn't any debate for another date.
We heard that a local company said they had plans for a Linux 10th anniversary event that day at the San Jose Convention Center. Lots of speakers and such. And they wanted SVLUG in on their plans. That sounded good. We had worked with them on Linux events before and it worked well. But we didn't know what the plans were this time.
Well, we found out in early July that they had cancelled their plans, probably scaling back their finances due to the economy. So with only seven weeks to go, we had to make up for lost time. Fortunately, a great group of volunteers rose to the occasion to help put it together. Inside of four days, we set up a mail list and web site, reviewed a list of parks we could reserve, and narrowed down that list. Since there were no event funds yet, I paid for the reservation of a large picnic area and the amphitheater at the Sunnyvale Baylands Park. So we'll be allowed to have up to 625 people at any one time.
But if you think it was expensive to reserve the park, that's nothing. Drew Bertola paid for Linux10 T-shirts to use as a fund raiser.
It was kind of a funny coincidence that we chose this park. We had thought of the Baylands Park because one of the routes used in sbay.org's monthly "Geek Ride" social bicycle rides has used the park before. The San Francisco Bay Trail goes through the park. We could see it was a very nice place with picnic areas in a central location to the South Bay Area. It wasn't until after I reserved the park that I found out it's right across the street from Red Hat's Sunnyvale office, formerly the location of Cygnus Solutions.
Red Hat generously offered to let us use their parking lot for overflow parking if needed. And projections now look like we might need it.
Drew: Originally, Ian came up with the idea and posted it to the SVLUG mailing list. Although there was some interest, we seemed to put off planning anything until he brought it up again in July.
Linux.com: Tell us about the team who put Linux10 together. How have you coordinated things thus far?
Drew: Well, Ian's the boss, since he's a very capable and level headed guy. I jumped in as an early volunteer and took the lead as far as recruiting and assigning other volunteers, getting the web site up, and supporting the various volunteer crews. Several other people committed to helping out and have done amazing jobs in a very short time. Tabinda Khan was an early force in pushing this forward. She's handling the treasury. Alvin Oga jumped in to lead the Activities crew. Sommer Farrin is doing a remarkable job heading up the food crew. Feeding an expected crowd of 600 to 700 people isn't easy, but with Sommer around to coordinate things, we all sleep a lot better.
Ian: The first thing we did was put up a mail list for the organizers and volunteers. Drew set up the web site with a MySQL back-end to handle the RSVPs, and has done a fantastic job with it. We knew the most critical functions before anything else would be to get together teams for food, activities and first aid. (Hey, you have to be prepared when you organize for 600+ people.) With the web page showing who had volunteered and what was still open, people have been volunteering. For example, Guy Hutchison leads the First Aid team. Sommer Farrin (President of the East Bay Linux User Group) leads the Food Crew. Alvin Oga leads the activities team. Tabinda Khan and Don Marti are handling the treasury and donations.
With those functions delegated to their respective leaders, we could move on to new priorities. Alex Petit-Bianco will lead the setup crew. Joyce Traugott will lead the cleanup crew. Marc Merlin (President of the Silicon Valley Linux User Group) will make the signs we need to post at the event.
Getting people there is a big thing too. I wrote the directions page for Linux10. It's the same kind of style I use for directions to sbay.org and SVLUG events - try to make it easy to come from anywhere. Usually it's a lot just to write directions from around the valley. But this time it was also directions from around the state.
We have identified and solved a lot of problems to get to this point. One of the problems which I'm working on right now, which I'm confident we'll solve too, is parking and transportation. We're probably going to fill the lot. Yeah, we have the overflow parking at Red Hat so no one will be turned away. But it's more convenient if people can park close by, especially if they drove in from Ashland (Oregon), Reno, Sacramento, Fresno or Los Angeles. So we're encouraging nearby residents to carpool, take transit or ride a bike there.
That brought up its own set of problems. We did a survey of the people who RSVP'ed to ask their transportation plans. Our requests seem to have been taken seriously - we might have 60 bikes there. So we're making arrangements on where to park them. We also might have 75-100 people taking transit. It's a mile to the nearest trolley and bus stop so we're organizing a transit shuttle. We need drivers who have minivans or similarly-sized vehicles to drive for about an hour or so each.
But don't worry. We'll solve that. And then there will be new problems to work on. But I'm really enjoying this. Everyone is obviously looking forward to it. It's going to be a lot of fun.
Linux.com: Why a picnic and not a massive installfest or something similar?
Drew: I'm usually very hungry and I could use a decent tan.
Ian: SVLUG has installfests every month in San Jose (Silicon Valley). And the CABAL (Coalition of All Bay Area Linux) holds its own installfest every month alternating between San Francisco and Oakland. Though I wouldn't want to diminish the importance installfests have had in getting Linux where it is today, that didn't jump out among the ideas for a celebration.
But there's a simpler answer. We're having a picnic because it's fun. A lot of our participants have families and that's probably the only kind of event that everyone will enjoy.
Linux.com: How important or relevant are community events like these to the future of Linux?
Ian: First of all, it's important to celebrate accomplishments. It's good for morale. And 10 years of Linux is an accomplishment.
Also the Open Source methodology of software development depends on interaction between people. We are a community because of the way we have to work together to accomplish our goals, to develop more software. A new user today could be a contributor tomorrow. Much of the Open Source community's work is online. But chances to meet in person help build teams and friendships.
Drew: I think that it's important to the community to celebrate the acheivments of all the individuals involved in Linux. It's important to have fun and socialize face to face with the same people you regularly flame fest with on mailing lists.
Linux.com: What advice do you have for others who may be planning events like these?
Ian: It doesn't have to be a huge event. Actually, you've pretty much run out of time to organize and recruit volunteers for an event like Linux10. But just do something. Pick a kind of celebration that works for your locality.
Whatever you do for your local event, describe it on a web page and send us the URL. We want more local celebration links to post on the Linux10.org site. After the event, post your event's pictures on your web site. We'll leave the link to your site up so people can look for pictures.
Drew: Only order as many T-shirts as you know you can sell. Seriously, there's a lot of work involved. Get started as early as possible, and don't be afraid to nag people to death if it'll get them to volunteer.
Linux.com: When and how did each of you get involved in Linux and/or Open Source?
Ian: I've been using Linux since the Spring of 1992. It was less than a year old at the time. I was drawn to Linux because I was already a Unix programmer.
I've been using Unix since I started college in 1984. Though we didn't call it Open Source back then, there were (and still are) Usenet newsgroups where you could post source code. It set a good example that when you write code, you have the right as the author to choose how to distribute it. And one option is to open the source. Back then almost all operating systems were completely proprietary and incompatible with each other, except Unix. We promoted Unix and "Open Systems" (i.e. publish your interfaces) back then like we promote Linux and Open Source today. By the end of the 80's the commercial world had widely adopted Unix. I graduated from college and went to work at a mainframe Unix lab.
Once I was away from school, I only had access to Unix systems at work. I wanted one at home. But SCO was charging $800 for a two-user license. So when a co-worker told me about Linux in 1992, that was what I was looking for.
One of the first things I did was port "smail" to Linux. That was the first e-mail server capability on Linux. I maintained the port for a couple years for Slackware and then for Debian, until the distributions were able to fly on their own. I still have the world's oldest Linux e-mail server at home.
The ability to run your own e-mail server at home was what we founded sbay.org about. It has grown into a networking experimenter and social group in Silicon Valley, and always been oriented around Linux and Open Source.
Drew: Compared to Ian, I started somewhat late. A friend of mine was running Red Hat 4.2 on his Samsung laptop back in 1995. I was running Windows on my home PC and had a network of dos machines talking to an OS/2 server over token ring at work. I was impressed with what my buddy was doing and I was ready for a change away from the dos world. I installed Linux from his copy of Red Hat. Having never worked in a Unix environment, there was a lot to learn and the learning curve seemed really steep. But, I enjoyed playing around with it enough to stick with it. I found it to be very powerful, stable, and fast. By 1997 I was using Linux for just about everything.
Linux.com: What do you think is the most important milestone in Linux history?
Drew: Obviously Linus' initial release has to be at the top. Other events that come to mind are probably the ones that drew the most media coverage: the HP and IBM announcements, the first LWCE, Windows Refund Day, etc.
Ian: That's a tough one.
I thought about several. The first one to jump to mind was when Linux was first released. Of course that would jump to mind first considering what we're organizing.
A co-worker suggested that it was when networking was introduced to Linux. That's important. Actually, I'm probably biased in favor of it. But there are so many other important features that I don't think any single feature could be the most important milestone in Linux history.
After thinking about it, I think the most important milestone in Linux history was Netscape's decision to release the source code of Navigator (as "Mozilla") in February 1998. The decision was based on Eric S Raymond's paper, "The Cathedral and the Bazaar", which was a study of why Linux was successful in spite of being contrary to most software development wisdom at the time. The proposed new software development methodology was called "Open Source". And nothing got more attention for it than Netscape's decision to go with it. It introduced the term "Open Source" to the media and to the corporate world.
Though Netscape, in the face of Microsoft's monopoly, wasn't as quick a success story as many hoped. The Mozilla browser today is showing the advantages of Open Source. But it was just the attention from those days in 1998 that made the world look at Open Source in general.
Linux.com: What do you think is the biggest obstacle Linux will face in the next ten years?
Ian: The desktop. And along with that comes Microsoft. At current growth rates, we could be looking at parity between Linux and Windows around the middle of the decade. Whenever Linux takes the lead, developers will switch to it in droves. After some years of new software being made first for Linux before Windows, we could win the desktop comfortably by the end of the decade.
Expect Microsoft to make even more desperate moves as Linux encroaches on their "turf".
Drew: I don't think there are any obstacles. I mean, it's open source. If something doesn't work, you fix it, port it, or write a driver for it. Of course, that's not always easy with closed standards and protocols, so I guess they'd be the biggest obstacles.
Linux.com: What effects do you think the commercialization of Linux has had on the community?
Ian:It diversified it.
And it's the reason why my job today is Open Source related work.
Drew: Well, there's a positive effect and a negative one. I think that the recognition provided by corporations that now embrace Linux is positive. It has made all the naysayers pause a bit and re-think their positions on running Linux. On the other hand, the Linux community used to have a philosophy that you build and share what you need. Now there seems to be a lot of pressure on developers to build what others need. Of course, there are a lot more developers out there now. The regulating influence has always been Linus' steadfast attitude towards what goes in to new kernel releases. As long as he's around, I don't see any problems arising from commercial interests.
Linux.com: What advice do you have for someone who wants to get involved in Linux and/or Open Source?
Ian: Start with something you're interested in. Maybe it's your hobby. Perhaps it's a solution to a problem for you. Whatever you pick, you have to be motivated by it if you're going to sustain your volunteer effort for years to come. Look around at Open Source projects and see what catches your attention. Then let them know you're interested and ask how you can help.
Drew: If you're obsessive-compulsive, stay away. You'll only end up playing with it every spare moment you have, then making a career out of it. Of course, you'll never be happier, and occasionally you'll get to break away for a picnic :).
Linux.com: Where do you see Linux ten years from now?
Ian: Linux's growth has historically had a rather stable exponential growth curve.
You wouldn't think that it should be something resembling a mathematical formula. But it has resembled the exponential growth curve of the Internet, which has been the fuel behind Linux's birth and growth. And the Internet's growth has strangely resembled the exponential growth curve of Moore's Law of computer chip capacity growth, which has probably been the fuel for the Internet's growth.
Moore's Law was an observation of how chip density and speed had doubled every 18-24 months for the preceeding years... in 1965. It wasn't supposed to be a forecast. But it has remained surprisingly accurate even to today. The accuracy of these curves tricked Linus himself, who joked in 1995 about where Linux would be in the year 2000 by projecting Linux's previous exponential growth forward. He showed the same graph at his keynote speech at LinuxWorld Expo in San Jose in late 1999. And to his utter surprise, it had been correct.
The problem with exponential growth curves is that they can't go on forever. You eventually reach a limit where it can't continue. But we've really underestimated them in all three of these cases. No one really thought Moore's Law would last to 1975, much less to 2001! They've continued in spite of the dot-com collapse, though some growth curves got a bit ahead of themselves. So here's where each of these curves would be in 2011 if Moore's Law continues "as scheduled":
Since that's more Linux devices than the population of the world will be in 10 years, I guess Linux would have to do pretty well in embedded devices too. :-)
I don't know where the technology will come from to drive the number of Linux devices to 15 billion in 10 years. But if Moore's Law holds out that long, everything that depends on it will surprise us too. That includes the Internet and Linux.
It's hard to get used to exponential growth.
Drew: Where don't you see Linux? I mean, look at the embedded industry. They're going nuts with Linux right now. In ten years, Linux will be the only OS I'll ever run on my toaster.
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