Day 2: Keynotes: Bob Young

[picture] Jon "Maddog" Hall introduced the first keynote speaker, Bob Young, from Red Hat, and told a few stories about him.
Maddog explained that he first met Bob Young in 1995 at a Unix Show, and back then they had Marc Ewing, Erik Troan and Donnie Barnes in the booth, which was pretty much the whole company. Bob later joked that they had spent almost all their money to go the show and had they not sold products there, they would not necessarly had dinner that evening since they had spent all their money to go to the show. :-)

Bob helped bring RH from a small startup to the leader in linux distributions in about 4 years. He was also instrumental in making RH available on an ftp site to everyone instead of just providing source code with the CDs they sold (it is by the way the only requirement of the GPL).


Bob then went on stage and made a few interesting analogies to explain a few points to people not as familiar with linux, like the linux kernel is the engine of a car, and that the distribution is the car itself, showing that the distribution vendors do a job different but yet that is as important as the kernel developers' (with regards to the average end user that is).

He explained that one of the issues with Unix, is that market fragmentation was a big issue for vendors. While Red Hat has been held responsible by some for fragmenting linux, for him linux isn't that fragmented and is actually less fragmented today than it was at the beginning (it is true to some extent I believe although in the past, there were less distributions to choose from, so less opportunities for seeing differences).

The reason why RH sticks to open source only is that they don't want to maintain their own versions of the tools and the kernel. For him, it's the reason why RH has been able to win the best OS award in front of Windows NT, when the RH team was 40 smaller developper-wise since they were able to leverage the work of all the people on the internet working on linux.

For him, binary only licensed code makes sense for a vertical market, like a specialized application for dentists, because when it takes 1/2 million dollars to develop and there is a limited market, it's not feasible for only a few customes to bear the whole cost.
Another example would be an application like IBM voice recognition where there is also a lot of Intellectual property and and a lot of research money involved.
In other words, open source may not be feasible for every single piece of software written, yet, whenever it is economically feasible, like for an operating system, it is the way to go.

Bob, as he noted, didn't exactly draw has many people for his keynote as Linus did at Linuxworld expo (my guesstimate is around 500 people vs more than 3000 for Linus), but then a pretty good number of people still showed up.

The following is just a personnal comment: No, Red Hat may not be perfect, but they don't deserve most of the bad things I've heard about them lately. They are a rapidely growing company which does face a few problems from time to time (like currently the pricing and availability of some of their products for resellers), and they do obviously have a marketing department which may not always do the most popular things, but I'd like people who think Red Hat is evil (and have points more valid than "it's the next microsoft"), to meet Bob Young if they get a chance, and tell me if they still think he is a evil man who plans to take over and crush all his competitors while holding his customers hostage. I'm pretty sure that if you do meet him, you'll change your mind.
(Now that doesn't mean that you can't prefer another distribution, that is a completely different matter)

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99/05/23 (08:52): Version 1.0