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Free, open source Linux is for hippies

Posted by joconner on May 5, 2008 at 10:05 PM PDT

CommunityOne is the conference at Moscone Center just prior to the JavaOne conference, which starts in earnest on Tuesday May 6 2008. I'm here for JavaOne but couldn't resist dropping in on CommunityOne.

CommunityOne's schedule includes several tracks today, including topics on web applications, scripting languages, Open Solaris, projects and strategy, and tools. NetBeans has its own track too.

Frankly, I don't think the CommunityOne sessions were that interesting. The speakers obviously have other day jobs, and well, that's a good thing. However, the interesting parts of a conference like CommunityOne or JavaOne are not always in a formal session. The "community" is so diverse that I found myself drawn to the hallways and side tables just to eavesdrop on conversations. Some conversations were serious, others were fun, and one of my own was just...well, I'm still confused. It went something like this:/p>

John (that's me): Hi, I'm John. I'm surprised how many people are here before JavaOne, for this conference before the big conference.

Other attendee: Oh, hi. I'm Dag.

John: Dad?

Other attendee: No, Dag. D-a-g.

John: That's an interesting name. I'm sure you have to spell it often.

Dag: Yeah, all the time. But anyway, yes, there are a lot of people. The open source communities are huge. In fact, I'm here just for CommunityOne.

John: Really, you came just for CommunityOne? Amazing. I sort of suspected that CommunityOne was just the thing to do if you were in town early.

Dag: No way, the open source community is big, and supporters turn out in huge numbers. In fact, this year's open source day is 50% larger than last year. I think this is the turning point. Next year will be even bigger and better.

John: So, what open source projects do you work on?

Dag: Nothing. I'm a consumer. Our shop has used MySQL for years, and we've been using Linux too.

John: Linux, huh. I'm trying Ubuntu on my laptop this week. I expected to see more Solaris CDs...you know, Sun is a big influence here. I'm surprised a cd wasn't in my tote bag.

Dag: Although we've been using Linux, our management is pushing us away. Their impression of Linux is just too much for them. We're moving to Solaris x86 soon.

John: What impression?

Dag: Well, open source, Linux in general. It's just a hippy, fringe thing, you know. That's what they think anyway.

John: Hmm...I guess I didn't know about that.

Dag: Yeah, the managers also say, "Free, open source...you get what you pay for." So they're trying to push us away from Linux to Solaris. That's open now too, but the impression is different. They'll go for Solaris, but they're uncomfortable with Linux.

John: Solaris is open-source, but the impression is different?

Dag: Absolutely. Sun's a big company, with plenty of support options, big name, big brand. The managers trust that.

John: They don't trust names like Red Hat?

Dag: Eh, not so much. Hey, and you know what? You can get better, cheaper service support from Sun now than you can from Red Hat. Sun support for Solaris is cheaper than Red Hat support for Linux.

John: I had no idea. So, you'll move to Solaris soon for the support?

Dag: For the cheaper support, sure. And the name. The managers trust the name. Sun. Solaris.

John: Brand recognition, yes, that's important. Still, I'm surprised that you can get Solaris support for less than Red Hat support. I haven't researched it myself, but I'll take your word on it.

Dag: Yeah, support is very important. We can't just get something for free. The managers don't trust that. So, we have to pay for it somehow. So we'll get the support contracts; we'll write out those checks to Sun for support even if we don't pay for the software.

John: So, they don't like open source because that also means free sometimes, as in no charge. But they'll tolerate it from someone like Sun because they get support from a known-brand company.

Dag: Right. That's it. Hey, gotta go to that Project Darkstar session. I didn't tell the boss about that, but I want to check it out anyway.

John: No problem. Enjoy yourself. Later!

Hey, I didn't make this up. That was a real conversation. Strange but interesting, no? I still don't know quite what to make of it. And that's much of the appeal of CommunityOne and JavaOne, aside from the actual technical content. The opinions, the people, the conversations...always interesting even if you don't personally agree.

Make sure you help create some of those conversations this week. Meet someone new. Don't hang out with your typical group. Get away from your everyday colleagues. Learn something new. Hear something different. That's the best way to get the most from JavaOne!

P.S. I did eventually find a Solaris x86 cd. It was in the CommunityOne tote bag that I received when I picked up my free t-shirt. I want to try it but frankly I'm hesitant. I've never had much luck with it when installing to a laptop. If you've put it on a Dell Latitude D620 before, let me know...I might try it this year. But don't expect me to buy a support contract.

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