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Usenix/Uselinux in Anaheim

By Phil Hughes, phil@ssc.com

Usenix/Uselinux Photo Album

Here I am at Usenix at the Mariott Hotel in Anaheim. Actually, it is pleasant to be in nice weather after almost drowning in Seattle. It had rained here the day before so the air was actually clean. But, let me talk about the show instead of the weather.

Usenix is a five-day show that, this year, has a heavy Linux presence. For those not familiar with Usenix, it has been the "wear a tie and get laughed at" Unix show for years. It is technical and tends to draw a very seriously technical crowd.

It is broken up into tutorials, a trade show and a technical conference. Well, plus the informal beer drinking sessions and such.

Tutorial Days

The first two days are tutorials and I elected to attend an all-day tutorial on the Linux 2.0 kernel presented by Stephen Tweedie. I found it to be excellent and that seemed to be the general opinion of the approximately 125 people who attended.

In eight hours and 170 overheads, Stephen addressed four specific areas of the kernel: memory management, the scheduler, filesystems and I/O and networking. I feel the goal of the talk, "to be with the design and algorithms behind the Linux kernel and to be able to read the Linux source code with some understanding" was met. While Stephen did not necessarily expect attendees to be familiar with Unix systems programming, the more you knew about Unix the easier it was to understand the presentation. After all, learning all about a new operating system in eight hours is quite a challenge.

On Tuesday, Ted T'so taught a tutorial on writing device drivers under Linux. This talk was attended by about 60 students. I elected to take Tuesday as a day to catch up on LJ work and make a run to Fry's Electronics to see if they carry Linux Journal. They don't--which makes no sense as Fry's is exactly the kind of place a Linux geek would want to go.

Tuesday evening started with free food and drink. This is one of the best ways to get geeks talking. The Marriott did a great job with an array of food carts with various choices including fruit, veggies, potato patties, nachos, hamburgers and hot dogs. There were also drink and dessert carts. They even had my drug of choice, Dr. Pepper.

There were Birds-of-a-Feather sessions scheduled from 6PM to 10PM. The two Linux ones were scheduled at the same time, both at 7PM. As I already know a lot about Caldera Linux I elected to go to the talk on Electronic Design Automation (EDA). Peter Collins, manager of software services for Exemplar Logic, headed the BoF and talked about how his company had done an NT port but now had a Linux port. He pointed out that EDA grew up on Unix-based systems like Suns and the capabilities of Linux were a better fit for current EDA users.

The Trade Show

The trade show started on Wednesday. While this was not a Linux-specific trade show, Linux had a large presence. Linux vendors included Caldera, EST (makers of the bru backup utility), InfoMagic, Linux International, Red Hat, Walnut Creek CDROM, Workgroup Solutions and Yggdrasil. Plus, of course, our booth where we were giving away sample copies of Linux Journal. Lots of other vendors came by to talk about Linux and the Linux products they sell.

Linux interest was very high. While Usenix is a geek conference, these are mostly professional geeks who are making serious technical decisions for real companies. I answered many "It seems like Linux could do this" inquiries.

Within the trade show I think SSC offered the biggest hit. We just finished our new "fences" t-shirt. We sold out of the shirts in about four hours on the first day. This gave me the feeling that I was at the right show--not one where Microsoft was being honored.

Linus Talks and Linux Talks

On Wednesday afternoon we proved how significant the Linux interest/presence was. Linus was scheduled to talk on the future of Linux in a fairly large room, which soon filled up, with standees everywhere--including the hall outside. Usenix quickly offered to move the crowd into a much larger hall.

The talk went well as Linus explained new features and new ideas. I won't bore you with details. The important thing is that the goal is world domination. To some this sounded like humor. Maybe it was. Only time will tell. In the mean time, building a superior product can't hurt.

Wednesday evening was a time for more Linux sessions. I attended one called The Classroom of the Future that showed how an experimental program brought the Internet to K-12 schools in Ireland. I also attended another called The Future of the Linux Desktop, missing Greg Wettstein's talk on perceptions. [see Greg's article "Linux in the Trenches" in LJ #5, September 1994--Ed.]

Thursday was another day of talks and trade show. Peter Struijk, SSC's "head nerd" managed to make it to Victor Yodaiken' presentation on real-time Linux [see LJ #34, February 1997] and a talk on the /proc file system by Stephen Tweedie. In the evening, I hosted a session on embedded, turnkey and real-time systems and intended to make it to Developing Linux-based electronic markets for Internet Trading Experiments but ended up talking with some of the attendees of my session instead.

The evening ended with a short talk about Linux and reality with Stephen Tweedie and then a trip back to the hotel room to finish up this column. Then, if I run out of things to do I may actually get some sleep.

Friday offers a day of Uselinux business talks. However, the combination of editorial deadlines and exhaustion mean that you won't get to read about it here.

What Next?

It was a great show. Usenix has always been a great show offering high-quality sessions and a really nice mix of "non-suites". Having Usenix/Uselinux made it all the better. I am sure there will be serious cooperation between Usenix and Linux International to continue to make Linux a big part of Usenix.

If I have one complaint it was that there was too much to do. Add a Linux International board meeting to a schedule that included sessions, talks and BoFs from 9AM to 11PM with parallel Linux tracks plus the normal Usenix tracks and there just wasn't time to breathe or, more importantly, sit down to a beer and talk to fellow kernel hackers, systems administrators or vendors.

Anyone who wants to get copies of the Proceedings of this conference or find out what the future holds with regard to Usenix, should contact USENIX Association at office@usenix.org or check out their web site at http://www.usenix.org/ or, if all else fails, call 510-528-8649. Oh, and if you don't know what 8649 spells you must be new to the Unix community.

Copyright © 1997, Phil Hughes
Published in Issue 14 of the Linux Gazette