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Tuesday, February 15 2005 @ 06:14 PM EST

I stopped in at LinuxWorld just for a quick look around today, kind of unexpectedly, actually, and I learned some interesting things. First, I met Bill Claybrook, which was certainly an honor. I learned he works for Novell now. I hope he will write something for Groklaw some time. And I learned that HP's Martin Fink is a very clueful guy. He gave one of the keynote speeches, and as usual Stephen Shankland gets it right on the money, if you want to read his article.

Fink talked about license proliferation, OSI, the GPL, and patents, not in that order, and what I walked away knowing is that HP gets the GPL. I can't tell you how surprised I am to be writing that. Or, I guess I should say Martin Fink gets the GPL and how important it is to the success of Linux. He said it's the GPL that gave Linux its wings to fly. I asked Fink's PR assistant to please send me a transcript of his remarks, so I can share it with you.

He tore into OSI, saying they are approving too many licenses and he hopes to do something about it, wearing his OSDL hat. As it happens, I agree with him, so that was a welcome speech. He says, in his view, it is licensing that makes Open Source work, and we have now too many licenses, nearly 60. In his view, that represents a clear and present danger to what makes FOSS work. He'd like OSI to change direction, and I gather he intends to do all he can to make it change. He also spoke about software patents.

Open source is built on copyrights, he said, despite some who claim Open Source is an "IP killer", but patents are different. He understands the feelings of those who oppose software patents, that it's a hindrance to their art, and he understands that business views patents as a way to to recoup its investment. But his point was that here we are, now, in a society that has software patents, and so his view is, go ahead and oppose software patents if that is how you feel, but it's naive not to apply for patents if you can. It's what you do with a patent that matters, not that you have one, he said. You can read Shankland's piece for more details.

I also attended Novell's Jack Messman's press conference. The most important thing he said was that Open Enterprise Server, which I gather is a merge of two operating systems, NetWare and SuSE Linux, has achieved EAL 4+ certification, which is important for governments, and he also announced the Hula project, a kind of OS replacement for Microsoft Exchange/Lotus Notes, and Novell is open sourcing NetMail's code to kick it off. Here's Peter Galli's article with more on the code they are open sourcing and another from eWeek. Also, here is Jack Loftus's account, and here's David Berlind, with more info on Hula. LinuxWorld was, as Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols had predicted, all about business.

A phoned-in question from a journalist asking Messman about the SCO case drew this response. He said Novell maintains they own the copyrights and the patents. He told the room they could go to Groklaw and see the documents. He said they think SCO has changed the nature of their discussion from IP violations to contract violations. Novell owns the code; they own the copyrights; and they own the patents. When he told the room they could go to Groklaw to see all the documents, I blushed. Intensely. I was mostly trying to be incognito all day, but anyone watching closely probably could have figured out who I was just by my skin color at that moment. I wanted to introduce myself to Mr. Messman, but by the time I finished talking with someone else, he had left the room. I wanted to introduce myself to several people there, actually, before the day was done, but I was too shy to follow through most of the time. I am a piece of work, no doubt about it.

I did win a tee shirt from Sun Microsystems, which says Freedom on the front and on the back. Some of the booths give you stuff if you watch their sales pitch. IBM's salesman gave me the brushoff, because I wasn't in the right category he was looking for. It made me smile. Anyway, so I wandered over in time to hear a Sun guy ask his group some questions from his spiel about StarOffice. And if you remembered the answer from the spiel, you got a tee shirt or a sweatshirt or whatever. I hadn't been there for the demo, but won the shirt because I knew that is XML. So, I hope you are proud of me.

Here is the funny thing. Groklaw was mentioned all day. Mr. Messman mentioned it. And there was a Penguin Bowl, a fun thing with questions for two teams, analysts and media people. And one question was from a Groklaw story. It was so funny being there with almost no one knowing who I was. I felt it today for the first time. Groklaw matters.

Yet, Groklaw would not qualify for entrance as media to LinuxWorld. Isn't that a scream? Actually, Groklaw can get in anywhere Linuxy now, but a blog doesn't normally qualify as media as far as LinuxWorld is concerned. I qualified, because I have written for pay elsewhere, but if all I had done was Groklaw, and Groklaw wasn't yet well known, I couldn't have gotten in with a media badge. One of life's little ironies. See, that's why the world needs Groklaw, to show them that their hierarchies have some gaps.

Because I'm so shy, I spent all day trying to do things I couldn't get the courage to do. Then I'd go hide in the ladies' room a while, and then pull myself together and I'd try again. We had a fire reported, and the alarm went off, and I could smell smoke as I tried to find my way out, but by the time I got to the bottom floor, they sounded the all clear. By then my allergies were off and running, and my eyelids swelled up, so that didn't help me want to meet anyone. I tried all afternoon to introduce myself to a journalist I know through email, and I actually spent hours in the media room trying to build up to do it, and gave up. I had to leave before the day was done, to get going on my way back home, so I left, then felt so stupid, I turned around and marched myself back in and forced myself to do it, awkwardly, no eye contact, and ran off again.

I make *myself* laugh, actually, but not at the time, if you know what I mean.

And here's what else happened. I saw Project Looking Glass, and I fell in love at first sight. No kidding, guys. It's how things are supposed to be. Please, please come up with some great ideas for 3D and make it happen. The Sun demo guy showed me what it can do, and here's what I learned. They know how to do it, but they don't know what to do with it. They would like ideas. Even if you don't know how to implement the idea, they want to hear about it.

I gave them my idea on the spot, but if you have an idea for using 3D, now is the most fun time there is, the ground floor. It's all in the research stage. You have to have the right kind of graphics card to get Looking Glass to work, and there are driver issues, but a knowledgeable and helpful guy watching the demo with me told me to stroll over to the EmperorLinux booth. They sell custom configurations for laptops. If you want a laptop with GNU/Linux on it, preinstalled, they will do it for you, and they'll do whatever you like. So you choose your distro, whatever accessories you want, and they will partition and customize it to your taste, so all your hardware is supported right out of the box, tied together by their "custom kernel". And you get a year of tech support by phone and email. And yes, I checked, and you can get it set up to work with Looking Glass.

It's so pleasant to see a 3D graphic. Sun had a picture of leaves of a tree, and I just felt comfortable visually in a way 2D never makes me feel. I want the Internet -- everything -- in 3D. And I so want to be able to have 3 browsers, 2 text editors, and some apps running at once and yet be able to see them all without clutter. When I saw Looking Glass's jukebox, a circle of CDs that spin around, and you click on the one you want when you want it, I understood immediately that you could do something similar with all the applications and all the documents you are working on or holding for later viewing, so you could keep track of where everything is in a natural way. That's how I work, and now that I've seen Looking Glass, nothing else is enough. Oh, and each element is transparent, if you want it to be, so you finally feel in control of what is happening. I simply fell in love with the thing. And it was against my will, because it's Sun and I'm still mad about the CDDL and I'm mad that they asked us for questions and then never answered them, but hang it all, Project Looking Glass is simply wonderful. I don't care who came up with it. It's out there now, and thank heaven, they released it under the GPL.

It was my first LinuxWorld. My first conference, actually. Of course, all day I wondered if any of you were there too. Were you? I am sorry I missed you, because it was such an agony for me to be around so many strangers, I seriously doubt I'll ever try such an outing again. It's just not me. I'll have to stick to what I do best, which is write. I'm very glad I forced myself to do it today, though, because I understand exactly what to do with Groklaw post-SCO.

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