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Linux, open source community: We are not afraid

FUD? What FUD? Linux users and vendors at last week's LinuxWorld were an optimistic bunch, and for good reason -- their guy's doing all right, so long as the penguin remains focused on its pragmatic approach.

I was asked to write down a few thoughts concerning the experience of LinuxWorld over the past week -- the users' attitudes on the show floor and the message behind the message from vendors who pitched their visions for the future of Linux and open source in the enterprise.

The attitudes of those in attendance for both users and vendors alike were simple to describe:

The Linux community is not afraid.

And why should they be? Fear, uncertainty and doubt campaigns, SCO lawsuits and thoughts of waking up one night and not having support are certainly no longer a part of the open source community and this once "roguish" operating system.

Linux has quickly transformed from one that is "one against the world" hobbyist dream into one that is fast becoming a serious part of the software stacks in enterprises, small and medium-sized businesses and worldwide government institutions.

Other events, like the Mozilla Foundation's open source Web browser, Firefox, surpassing 25 million downloads during the week of the conference, were like gasoline on an already hot fire. Indeed, the way the Firefox swag was being sold in the .org pavilion all week you might have thought those guys were giving away free iPods.


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The confidence of LinuxWorld carried over to the keynotes where Novell CEO Jack Messman, while delivering the inaugural keynote address, said security was another big reason Linux implementations had increased in 13 months.

"The open nature of Linux is the reason for [better security]. There are so many people with so much invested it's no wonder it has such a rock solid code base," he said, noting that the Evans Data Corp. said 92% of IT departments running Linux had not been infected.

Notably absent from the hearts and minds of users and executives alike were any concerns that another SCO-like lawsuit is on the horizon. Admittedly, a ruling by U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball on the opening day of LinuxWorld that all but handed IBM a win in the case helped, but this was more icing on the cake than a deal breaker.

While SCO threats faded, leaders from Massachusetts and Rhode Island talked about open source in government as if it were inevitable. Indeed, if you sat in on the Government Open Code Collaborative press conference, Rhode Island's eGovernment director Jim Willis spoke as if open source applications were a forgone conclusion for the municipalities and state governments across the U.S. In taking a look at what Rhode Island has already pumped out in terms of open source software, one would probably be inclined to agree with him.

In a wrap-up column on LinuxWorld, site expert Bernard Golden said he believed the march of open source into the mainstream IT infrastructure will pick up momentum this year.

"LinuxWorld shows that pragmatists are now joining early adopters and enthusiasts as open source users," he said. "The next time you hear someone enthuse about open source, it might be your boss!"

Judging from the atmosphere at LinuxWorld last week (albeit a very Linux-friendly one, of course), that day appears closer than ever.

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