Impressions from ALS

By Joe Barr, LinuxWorld.com |  Operating Systems

In every session I attended, I found geeks speaking my language, not CEOs or market droids lip-synching la buzz du jour.


Steve Best from IBM's Linux Technology Center spoke about JFS, but I skipped it because I had seen him give that talk at the Austin LUG a couple of weeks before. But I did catch most of another IBM-related session. Adam Thornton spoke on the Linux System/390 project, and even showed that certain users should consider the behemoth for their platform. EBCDIC and ASCII are like oil and water, so Thornton spent a lot of time explaining the strange and wonderful world of hard files and the S/390's enormous bandwidth to an audience much more familiar with Intel and IDE drives than IEFBR14 and channel control programs.


Ken Coar, also from Big Blue, gave an entertaining talk on Apache and the Apache Software Foundation. File this one as another dubious example of why open source will never work. After listening to Coar describe the various processes for getting something done, I was left with only one question in mind: Was anyone sober while drawing up those procedural guidelines? In spite of the seeming impossibility, Apache today accounts for more than 60 percent of the HTTP-server market share.


Urs Hölzle's presentation attracted a lot of interest in Google's use of clustering. I learned later that Hölzle was confused about the difference between page views and number of visitors, but Google's numbers are still impressive. SCSI drives? No, thanks. Google uses two IDEs per box in its configuration. Hölzle explained that that method is more cost-effective than better hardware. Interestingly, only about 50 of the approximately 4,000 Linux boxes that make up Google's search engine are busy serving HTML. The rest host the 100-million-plus Webpages indexed by Google's search engine, or actually search for new ones. When asked what Google indexed, Hölzle replied "Everything."


The last talk I attended was Larry Wall's keynote. Wall, famous for creating Perl, gave a brief history of Unix and Perl, and a fascinating discussion of other languages. Unfortunately, my tailbone was killing me by this time and I had to leave about halfway through his talk.

In the halls and after hours

The exhibit floor was interesting, the sessions great, but my favorite moments of the ALS were chance meetings and brief conversations.


It was at the now-defunct Open Source show in Austin that I met Dave Whittinger, founder of Linux Today and Linsight. Whittinger was discussing earlier Linux shows, and said his favorite was the one in Raleigh where Dr. Greg Wettstein talked about "world domination." I made a mental note of that, and a few months later (in March 2000), did a story about Wettstein.


At the ALS, I had stopped in the hall to say hello to "maddog" Hall when he started calling to someone going the opposite way. It was Wettstein.

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