Larry started his talk in his usual manner, asking the members of the audience who had contributed to a free software project to stand up and be recognized. While a fair number of people stood up, it was less than 10% - fewer than at previous conferences. As the Linux community grows, the percentage of developers is beginning to drop.
There were still no members of the audience who would admit to contributing to the Windows CD.
Then came a story familiar to this writer. Back at the University, Larry and colleagues would buy Unix workstations. The first thing they would do was to replace much of the provided system with free software utilities. It's not that the systems lacked functionality before, just that the free versions were better.
That led into the point that "open source is inevitable." It is a far more efficient way of doing things, both in terms of economics and time. Proprietary software carries a whole corporate load - marketing, management, etc. Proprietary vendors also tend to compete with each other and reinvent the same wheels, while open source software is more evolutionary.
The topic then shifted to the Trillian release - Linux for the Itanium processor is now available, ahead of the hardware itself. That could well be a first for open source software. Then followed a demonstration of an Itanium system running Linux, with some nice MP3 video and other cool stuff.
Next topic: barriers to entry into the free software world. It's not sufficient to toss out come code occasionally, the development process as a whole must be open. Licensing matters, and not everybody gets it. It's also important to provide the tools that developers are accustomed to using.
Shift to business models. Some companies try to position themselves as a gatekeeper between users and developers. Larry sees that as a mistake; it separates users from the development process and inhibits contributions. VA Linux, instead, positions itself as a facilitator, primarily through the SourceForge resource. The whole idea is to bring users into the process, and create more developers.
SourceForge came out of a vision Larry had of providing both the infrastructure developers need and a permanant archive of what open source projects have done. Much development history has been lost because nobody kept it; SourceForge will never delete anything.
John T. Hall of VA came out to demo some SourceForge features. He pointed out that there were more than Linux projects there - SourceForge is now hosting open source projects for Windows, Macintosh, Palm, and Be software as well.
NFS for Linux has long languished with insufficient developer interest. In the ten weeks since NFS went into SourceForge, it has gone from one to ten developers, and things are happening.
When Quake was open-sourced, four separate projects popped up on SourceForge. When they saw each other, they quickly coalesced into a single group. Bug reports for Quake started showing up after two hours; the first fix came in three hours.
A couple of new features for SourceForge were announced: a fancy patch management tool, and a "compile farm" which makes it easy to provide binaries for multiple distributions and architectures.
In all, SourceForge hosts more than 1600 projects, and almost 10,000 developers. One of the new projects there is KDE, which had long outgrown its university hosts.
The Andover.Net acquisition was also announced. Slashdot was called "the town hall of the movement" and welcomed to the fold. A question came up as to whether Freshmeat would be integrated into SourceForge; there are no such plans now, but it is an obvious thing to think about for the future.