Comdex Fall 1999: Linus's Keynote


For the last four years I've been going to comdex, I've envisionned Linus as keynote speaker at Comdex Fall (he was speaker at Comdex Spring, but it's a not the real Comdex, the fall one is). I was more than glad to see that my wish had come true finally.

But another person deserves even more credit: Mark Bolzern from, who was in a booth with Bob Young and Patrick Volkerding at the 1994 Comdex, saw what could be done, and then more or less created the Linux Pavilion for Linux International at Comdex and Uniforum shows in 1995. After Linux Pro by WGS won a best of Comdex award from Byte Magazine in 1995, the Linux Pavilion took off doubling every year after that, in 1996 with Caldera, Red Hat and other Linux International members. Mark in 1994, also set a goal that "Linus will be keynote speaker at Comdex within 5 years". That was a bold statement back then as Linux was far from widespread, but his prediction did come true as the result of press tours, and a lot of hard work from dedicated people like Mark.

Mark when asked, insisted on also giving credit to others who helped after 1995, "Carlie Fairchild, Kit Cosper, Larry Augustine, and Jon "maddog" Hall who later became Executive director of Linux International. Ted Prindle, Bill Mahan, Bill Sell, Jay Mulhern, and especially Sonny Saslaw of ZD/Comdex were also instrumental."

The Keynote

According to my records, Linus broke his keynote attendence record, with 4000+ people in a huge room that could have held at least 5000 people (LinuxWorld Winter 99 had about 3500 people)



Maddog, before introducing Linus, gave a couple of stories. It's nice as he has different ones every time :-) .

He told the crowd how he first bought Linus to his first talk in the US, how 40 people showed up, and how he gave a presentation at Digital about Linux way back when, and had only one slide that said Linux is inevitable.




As usual, Linus started by thanking all the people who helped to develop linux.

For him, open source started because programers were having fun and liked sharing and exchanging code.
Later, as Linux started to grow, open source was still popular even though more users weren't programmer. One of the main reasons it still did was that their MIS guy was usually able to look at the code and interface with the developers when there was any problem.

With OSS, there is competition for code within a project, and that creates better code than commercial software because they typically only have one person working on a one specific aspect of the code.

Bigger companies are embracing OSS, like Netscape, SunSoft, Corel. Then you also have big companies like IBM, HP, and Intel working with OSS.
The great news is also hardware manufacturers like 3DFX who are now opening full specs to their hardware.

Linus has really gotten good at doing entertaining talks, he had several funny slides. Unfortunately the bottom was cut on the display, so on his top 5 reasons to do open source slide, the #1 reason OSS is better is that you don't get suied for anti-competition behavior :-)

After that, he went on with a status check:
What happened in the last year?

Where are things going?

The other interesting things is that for the first time, Linus could finally say a few words about what transmeta does: a smart CPU built with software. More details will be disclosed on January 19th 2000 and will be made available on the transmeta website

Another thing I picked up is that he mentioned linux 2.4 was expected for early next year (not the end of this year as originally guessed)

Q&A on a slide from Spishaks

From his slide:
Is the Dark Side of the source Stronger?
No.. Quicker, easier, more seductive it is
So what does Transmeta do?
A "smart CPU", the first processor built with software. Full details to be disclosed on January 19, 2000. Our web site actually exists now ;)
Why is Leonardo diCaprio mentioned before Linux Torvalds in Esquire's "Genius Issue"?
Hey, like, he's more than just a pretty face

Real Q&A

Here are some of the questions that people asked Linus
How about supercomputing?
Big clients like the department of defense will make request that will make this happen
What if windows were to go open source?
While it's not likely to happen anytime soon, if it were to happen some good things could come out of it.
How about the mincraft survey?
Mindcraft showed areas where linux was weak, and they've been fixed.
It won't be ready for 2.4.0, but may be added later in 2.4.x.
What if MS made a linux distribution?
Nothing prevents them from doing so as long as they play by the rules. The main goal of linux is not to crush windows, it's to be great and to have fun.
How about embedded systems?
Linux still needs some memory, so it's better for hardware to catch up with linux (a few megs of Ram are necessary). But then, memory is getting cheaper...
What distribution do you use?
Several ones: Suse, RH, Caldera
What editor?
Micro Emacs, which is neither VI or Emacs.
As a side note on the editor question, Linus doesn't lie when he says he doesn't know how to use vi. Since the bottom of his slides were missing, I had him type the answer to the diCaprio question on my laptop, and as soon as he had to correct something, he got completely lost in vim :-)

You can find more pictures from the keynote in the picture library, and the slides are in there too.

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99/11/29 (02:28): Version 1.0
99/11/29 (13:18): Version 1.1. Fixed the comdex history
99/11/29 (17:05): Version 1.2. Fixed typo reported by Joe Meadows