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LinuxWorld coverage - Press conference with Linus, Larry Augustin and Eric RaymondSomebody was in trouble when the press conference started, because they had managed to mislay Linus? He was eventually found on the exhibit floor, introducing his children to the two live penguins, which was, of course, "much more important than any journalist."
Question: How is Linux for embedded systems progressing?
Linus: It is picking up. There are some network appliances out there now. Caldera has embraced that market with Lineo. Wireless support on Linux comes up as a frequent question. There are not many actual products as of yet.
Question: What type of questions on wireless are you hearing?
Linus: I want Linux to move in the wireless direction personally because wires are a pain. I'm in the process of removing wires from my house and I'm finding out that a lot of other people are interested in it as well.
Question: Why did you choose the Penguin?
Linus: Not a lot of thought went into it. Humor was important, having fun, everything that is the opposite for staid and corporated. My wife actually suggested it because I like them. Also, you can do a lot of fun things with a penguin that you can't do with a traditional corporate logo, like the Penmguin playing hockey or the Extreme Linux penguin. I asked for options for a logo and chose the one I liked.
Question: Journalling filesystems?
Linus: I'll be covering that at my keynote tonight. In summary, I'm polishing things more.
Question: Do you think big players like Oracle, etc., will try to reinvent the desktop?
Linus: The distributions, Red Hat, SuSE, Caldera, etc., will all push the desktop in order to get more customers.
Question: Is there a dichotomy between trying to support IA64 development and embedded systems all within Linux?
Linus: There certainly is. Previously, the Linus market was pretty homogeneous. What is happening now is specialization. That makes perfect sense. You want to have different systems on an embedded chip than on a server.
The attention around faster chip sdoesn't mean that all the development is going in that direction. Embedded systems are also getting better.
Question: Do you worry about Microsoft bad-mouthing Linux or taking action to try to derail Linux?
Linus: I think it is fair for Microsoft to bad-mouth us, because certainly we bad-mouth them enough. I don't see them taking any actions against us because, other than benchmarks, everything they've done has back-fired on them. Even the benchmarks back-fired, because they inspired the developers to address the issues found.
Eric: From where I sit, I agree. I visited Microsoft and they aren't taking much action because what they've tried to do has gone wrong.
Question: Why Linus for multimedia and telecommunications?
Linus: It is easy to deploy Linux in test situations. It has normally low latency and basic real-time support. For new companies coming in, it makes an obvious choice to use Linux instead of developing your own. The issues are partly technical and partly market based.
Question: With the growth of Linux, have you seen new developers showing up?
Linus: Certain seen a lot of new developers, particularly from the companies getting involved. The result is interesting. However, developers are still rare within the community and he is happy with that. The threshold of knowledge required to work as a core Linux developer has risen as the system has grown.
Question: (warning, clueless journalist) How do you plan to capture particular market areas?
Linus: I am certainly not interested in "capturing markets". The companies coming in certainly are. I'll try to keep the political minefield clear and try to produce the best in technical terms.
Question: Is Microsoft "ripe with enemy agents", possibly hamstringing their ability to respond to Linux?
Linus: I like the idea, but really, it is unlikely. The people who work at Microsoft are proud of their companies and just find Linux annoying.
Question: Can you confirm that the Sony playstation is going to use Linux?
Linus: I heard the rumor and my reaction was "YES!" It is still just a rumor.
The low end is coming up and meeting the PC and it may take over. Many people want something much simpler, that you just plug into the wall and it works.
Question: Is there a way to "fix" Mozilla?
Linus: Mozilla is not a major disaster. The rumors of its demise have, to some degree, revitalized interest. I was disappointed that the initial energy outside the project didn't feed back into the Mozilla source well.
Eric: Netscape succeeded in their goal, even though they haven't released a new product. They kept Internet Explorer from getting a lock on the market.
Question: How do you feel about patents on human genomes?
Linus: I try to stay out of political issues, except for specific ones, like cryptographic restrictions. Other than those, I don't tend to be a black and white person, I'm more grey. Some patents are bad (software patents are mostly bad), but some are good. They need to be stricter about what patents they allow.
Question: Were you surprised by the backlash in the Amiga community when Amiga chose Linux for its future development?
Linus: Any choice would have upset them. I, obviously, think they made the right choice.
Question: What about Richard Stallman's campaign to change the name of Linux to GNU/Linux?
Linus: When he asked me about it, I told him to "Go wild." It is not what I recommend you do, but you're welcome to call it any variation you want. GNU/Linux, Red Hat Linux, OpenLinux, whatever. Linux is Linux.
The GNU project has been critical to Linux, particularly the C compiler and the politics. They should get more recognition. If you want to call Linux GNU/Linux occasionally to recognize them, do as you wish.
Question: What about your future with Linux?
Linus: Obviously I can't continue forever. Development has been partitioned well, with me just addressng the kernel. Linux will not fragment but there will be more autonomy for specific subsystems.
Question: As Linux reaches critical mass, how will the development community and business community interoperate?
Linus: Very well. To my untrained eye, it appears to be a symbiosis. I've seen very few clashes.
For example, the various distributions have done a good job of tracking bugs and questions and feeding that information back to the developers. That's a job we don't want to do, so we're happy to have them doing it.
I don't see any real sticking points. There may be, but I'm fairly optimistic.
Question: Did IDG consult with any of the three of you before they started the LinuxWorld conference?
Linus: They asked me for input and I said "No, I'm not interested."
Larry: I'm the conference chairman, so obviously I'm involved. We tried to broaden out, to reach new people, particularly to find business success stores. For LinuxWorld 2000, the number of such success stories has been amazing.
Question: Dataquest says Linux will be successful on specialized hardware but won't be competition in general because it doesn't have the type of money to throw at the general platform compared to the players already there.
Linus: It's not an issue of money. The desktop is hard to get into whether you have money or not. IBM threw a lot of money at the desktop and still failed. Money doesn't change people's perspective. Any kind of change is difficult fo rthem.
The server market is easier because backwards compatibility isn't required.
That doesn't mean I'm going to give up on the desktop. It is really the most interesting market because it requires things that the other markets don't. Money is one of them, but not the most important one.
Larry: How Dataquest broke down the markets for their report isn't clear. For example, general purpose machines being used to run a web server may have been classified as specialized.
Eric: Note that another study reports that 49% of IT managers said that Linux is important or essential to their plans.
Also, money isn't going to solve Microsoft's problems either because they have to maintain backwards compatibility.
Question: What about the relationship between Linux and the BSDs?
Linus: Do I want to go there? I'm not sure. They were all very dedicated to Unix. Most Linux developers came from DOS, wanted to change and were very open. Add in luck and also the name is better.
Larry: Cooperation and friendly competition exists between Linux and the BSDs. For example, Debian is planning to take all their packaged software that runs on the Linux kernel and put it on top of BSD in addition. Debian/BSD brings us closer.
Eric: I came from BSD. BSD started with all the advantages: more developers, a higher average skill level, focused goals, etc. They just got one thing wrong: they didn't build a self-correcting peer review system. Linus built that.
Larry: Linus has been a brilliant project manager.
Question: High-availability in the next kernel?
Linus: Not much so far. In a longer time-frame, both HA and Journalling will be sorted out. To avoid the chaos of the 2.2 release, I am avoiding agressive new features right now.
Question: The first LinuxWorld was called your "Sweet Sixteen" party. What about this one?
Linus: I was nervous last time. This second one is promising. Everything is going well, lots of announcements.
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