March 20, 2001, 3:51 PM —
I just returned from the ALS in Atlanta. What began as the Atlanta Linux Showcase is now the Annual Linux Showcase. Created by the ALE (Atlanta Linux Enthusiasts) in 1997, the show is now run by Usenix. (See Resources for links to both.) Sadly for the Atlanta-area Linux community, next year's ALS will be held in Oakland, Calif.
The ALS is not the biggest or most hyped Linux show, but it is the best one I've attended. Unlike LinuxWorld Expo -- the biggest and gaudiest show -- ALS is about Linux, not the companies scrambling to make money from Linux. And because Linux is about community as much as software, the ALS is definitely a people show (albeit geeky people).
The crowd seemed almost evenly split between the exhibit hall floor and the technical presentations. As with most Linux shows, all the big names were present: VA Linux, Red Hat, SuSE, IBM, Sun, HP, and so forth. But they didn't dominate the show.
On the floor
One exhibitor caught me by surprise: AOL was there. Why? To recruit Linux talent. AOL has a deal with Gateway to put a Linux-based network appliance (running a slimmed-down version of the AOL client) on the market by the end of the year, and is looking for Linux programmers to help meet that goal. I asked a guy in the booth if a full Linux version of the AOL client would come later. He shifted his gaze, hemmed and hawed, and finally left it as a maybe. It seems to be far more difficul to correctly set up a modem via software under Linux than under Windows or Mac. And as you may know, the classic first question from AOL tech support, regardless of what your problem is, is "What is your modem init string?"