OSCON day 3: Reflections on OSCON 2008

Today was the last day of OSCON and I’m in the mood to think about the conference and share some of my random observations that didn’t make it into any of my other blog posts.

First up is a comment that Brian Aker of MySQL fame made during the “Tim O’Reilly Interviews Monty Widenius & Brian Aker” interview:

Microsoft is irrelevant. … We’re more worried about Apple.

Woah. That’s a tall statement! One that resonates with me since just a few weeks ago I realized that my life is now fully free of Microsoft. And I used to be a full time Win32 programmer 10 years ago. While Microsoft may not be fully irrelevant in all scopes, a comment like this shows that the open source movement has made an amazing amount of progress in the last 10 years. Consumers have a lot more operating choices today than they did 10 years ago. And to think that Apple had been written off for dead — now they’re back and they’re feared!

And while we’re on the topic of Microsoft’s relevance, Thorsten von Eicken in his “Scale into the Cloud with Open Source” presentation said:

Inflexible licensing on behalf of vendors has caused most of the software running in the cloud to be open source software.

(The “cloud” in this context is Amazon’s EC2 for which his company provides services). This is a huge deal! We’re talking about closed source software vendors shutting themselves out by not quickly providing flexible licenses that can deal with the rapid deployment of servers to a cloud. And even when they do provide flexible licenses, what will the costs be of handling a massive load spike of your services running in the cloud? You may have to watch out for more than just your bandwidth costs during a load spike — what could the operating system licensing costs do to your company? Go open source software! This keeps getting better and better!

At the Google dinner I sat next to Greg Kroah-Hartman, the Linux kernel hacker and talked about all sorts of things. I asked him what the strangest place was that he found Linux running. His response:

  1. VW Production plants: Assembly robots are running Linux
  2. Motorola cell phones: Apparently all motorola phones run Linux. I didn’t know that!
  3. Sail boats: Some fancy sailboats are controlled with embedded Linux systems.
  4. Cars: Many cars run Linux now and when customers demanded iPod support in their car, Linux made a huge surge forward as manufacturers raced to provide this new feature.

I didn’t realize how many places used embedded Linux to control various contraptions. I personally have run an embedded Linux computer in my Burning Man project last year, so I shouldn’t be surprised at the various places where Linux crops up.

Finally some comments about OSCON itself. Besides having a blast once again and meeting many interesting new people, the sessions all engaged me fully. Not even once did a speaker fail to capture my attention throughout the whole session. The selection of topics was also spot on — many of the things that are on my personal radar were covered. And the gender balance had never been better at an OSCON! I was pleased to see many more women present at OSCON — I suspect that Danese Cooper and Allison Randal may have had something to do with that. Regardless of who deserves the credit, please continue to encourage more women to attend!

That’s it for me. I have to run off to catch my plane back to California. Thanks for the excellent conference and thanks for having my on the Radar!