Reporter's notebook: Tidbits from the O'Reilly Open Source show

Tim O'Reilly envisions the creation of 'an Internet operating system'

PORTLAND, Ore. -- In his keynote speech kicking off this week's fifth annual O'Reilly Open Source Convention on July 9, Tim O'Reilly, the founder and CEO of book publisher O'Reilly & Associates Inc., eloquently laid out his thoughts on why Linux and other open-source software continues to influence the evolution of IT and business computing.

"It's not just about building Linux as a product," he said, "but as a process."

"I believe that we are building an Internet operating system," O'Reilly said. "That's the challenge ahead of us. That's where we're going."

Instead of the various open-source projects being separate and distinct, the real beauty of open-source is that it's all tied together through a huge groundswell of group effort, all to benefit the overall community of users, he said. "Where are we going to end up five years from now, 10 years from now, 15 years from now?" he asked. "We have to build out to that future."

Free lunch

Crowds of people picking up their free lunches provided by Microsoft at the convention.
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Crowds of people picking up their free lunches provided by Microsoft at the convention.

Credit: Todd Weiss
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When the preliminary schedule for the O'Reilly Open Source Convention was printed up several months ago, lunchtime on each day's calendar was noted as "on your own" and wasn't included in the conference fees.

But with about four weeks to go before the event got under way, a major software vendor jumped in to sponsor "brown-bag" lunches for an estimated 1,000 attendees. Only this was no ordinary software vendor, and it certainly wasn't an open-source company.

To the surprise and chagrin of many of the attendees, the free lunch was sponsored by Microsoft Corp., which has attended the convention for the past three years and provided guest speakers. But never before had it been an event sponsor.

With tables covered with brown-bag lunches filled with various choices of sandwiches, fruit, cookies and candy, large crowds of attendees had no problem looking past the small black "Microsoft" stickers on the bags or the "Microsoft -- Free, as in lunch :)" banner hanging from the ceiling as they filled their stomachs. The banner was a barely concealed takeoff on free software activist Richard Stallman's famous "free, as in free speech, not as in free beer" comment in the 1980s.

The sign idea was developed by an unofficial committee, said Jason Matusow, shared-source manager at Microsoft. "We were all just passing around ideas and thought it was lighthearted. We saw in the event program that they weren't providing lunch, so we thought it would be good to give back to the community."

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Tim O'Reilly speaking Wednesday at the O'Reilly Open Source Convention
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Tim O'Reilly speaking Wednesday at the O'Reilly Open Source Convention

Credit: Todd Weiss

None of the attendees appeared upset about the free lunches.

"I'll take it," said Salvador Peralta, a systems administrator at the Mark O. Hatfield Library at Willamette University in Salem, Ore., as he snagged a brown bag. "I think it's funny. But it does raise some philosophical red flags. I've heard some people here say that they're not eating the lunch if there's a license with it.

"More power to them," Peralta said of Microsoft's donation. "I have no problem with Microsoft or proprietary software. That's just not the path I've chosen."

Andy Dustman, a senior support specialist at the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia in Athens, was a bit less supportive of Microsoft, but he still enjoyed the free meal. "I think they should get used to us eating their lunch," he said with a grin.

Rick Oliver, a senior programming manager at Ticketmaster.com in Los Angeles, said, "I didn't even think twice about it," as he picked up a lunch bag. "But there's one guy in our office who's philosophically opposed to Microsoft, and he took the lunch too. We threatened to put the Microsoft stickers on his desk."

Pogo Linux and MySQL

Among the show's attractions was a vendor showroom featuring open-source and Linux innovations from a variety of exhibitors, including Hewlett-Packard Co., antispam and collaboration software vendor ActiveState, and Sun Microsystems Inc.

One of the most interesting announcements, though, came from Redmond, Wash.-based hardware vendor Pogo Linux Inc. and Uppsala, Sweden-based open-source database company MySQL AB. They've teamed up to build and sell what they say is the first preconfigured, integrated MySQL database appliance, the Pogo DataWare 2600 Server.

Under the deal announced earlier this week, Pogo Linux is the first vendor to be named a "MySQL certified hardware partner."

"It will raise the bar for value, ease of use and performance," said MySQL AB co-founder David Axmark in a statement. "Pogo Linux has a strong reputation for excellence in hardware development and customer service, and we are pleased to name them as the first MySQL Certified Hardware Partner."

The server appliance will be targeted to businesses where throughput and performance are critical, such as Web hosting and financial institutions, according to the companies. The new device will be launched next month at the LinuxWorld Conference & Expo in San Francisco, with pricing to be announced.

Copyright © 2003 IDG Communications, Inc.

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