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My most vivid memory of Linux Expo is late the first night, seeing a late model white Chevy Cavalier RS with Kentucky license plates, parked in the lot of the Innkeeper Motel where I was staying. My last full day in North Carolina, the college students who came in the Cavalier came to my room to do a little 1 AM hacking on my Red Hat machine. But I digress. Let's return to Linux Expo.
I had expected Linux Expo to be a huge version of my local Linux User Group, with everyone friendly, joking, and sharing info. Nope! We were all a little shy, preferring to stay in our cliques rather than talk to everyone. At least in the beginning... And to say the least, there was diversity. People with spiked multicolor hair and pierced everything. People in suits (though not many). People 18, 45, and 70. Mostly North American and European, mostly male. And of course, heavily geek.
Some guys didn't have a clue. They sat in their booths, hawking proprietary Linux products at big iron prices. "How can they be so out of touch with reality", I asked myself. Then I realized that the tables were turned -- the button down guys were in my world now, and were clueless. As clueless as I feel talking free software in regimented, button down big iron shops. That realization brought empathy. And hopefully, seeing what it's like to be the square peg will make them a little more receptive the next time a Linux oriented technologist enters their world.
But of course, none of this explains the Linux Expo phenomenon. The happiness and excitement at a mere tech show. Even a Linux one. That first night, staring at the Chevy Cavalier in the parking lot, I think I figured it out.
We all knew it was a tech show. Not a rock festival, not a political rally, not a religious conversion. We all knew that. But we came to celebrate. We celebrate because the good guys finally won. We're converting the world to the good technology, and making good money doing it. It's been a long haul, and we've certainly earned the right to celebrate. And Linux Expo was the ultimate place to celebrate with others on our world wide team.
I'll always remember Linux Expo in terms of that Chevy Cavalier. Just an ordinary, well cared for, late model little white car with Kentucky tags and plenty of road grit from the several hundred mile trip taken by those five college students. Five guys overcoming miles and finances and class schedules to celebrate GNU/Linux' victory.
On the rear windshield, written in soap or wax or whatever, were the words "Linux Expo or Bust".