Penguin Bowl results and other LinuxWorld happenings

by Andy Oram

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While a few companies at
LinuxWorld Expo
base their business on offering Linux, and a few more on offfering software that runs on Linux, a hefty number operate within the larger computing ecosystem of which Linux a part. For instance, Linux is brought within the mission-critical task of storage and backup by such companies as
BakBone Software. This year I noticed a new micro-industry at LinuxWorld: Windows-to-Linux migration. Scads of books are coming out on the subject, and now some vendors are cleverly figuring out how to package up the tasks available for automation, mostly migrating all the little things such as customized dictionaries and calendar entries that one builds up in application-specific data stores over the years.

Of course, migration of any sort is a major undertaking that requires a lot of planning and marshaling with the organization, and software can't help you with much of this. But wouldn't it lower barriers to migration if you could reduce the time it took an administrator to convert a single user's settings from an estimated six hours to twenty minutes? That's what one of the migration companies,
suggests can happen with their Progression software. They actually do much more than dictionaries and calendars; for instance, they can load a MySQL database with the data from SQL Server. They are finding a lot of interest in their product among companies with 500 or more systems to convert. In such an environment, the cost of the software might be justified not only by the time savings but by maintaining the system administrators' sanity.

To me and to many potential customers, the inevitable question came up: could Versora automate a conversion from Linux back to Windows, in case the companies are not happy with their Linux migration? Although Linux ideologues might not like the concept of a reverse path, it might induce more companies to make the leap to Linux, and Versora is taking note of the requests.

is also taking note of the environment in which their product runs. They now have a large project called MySQL Network, which contains their knowledge base, indemnification, and other sorts of non-technical components of enterprise computing. They think their upcoming 5.0 release will let them reach a new tier of enterprises with heavy database requirements, and actually pushed some features from 5.1 back to 5.0 to make it more attractive. (The major enhancements cited by VP Zack Urlocker were stored procedures, views, and triggers.) The code and staff they got from SAP were a great help in developing the latest wave of features. MySQL AB is also focusing more than ever before on their GUI tools such as the MySQL query browser. These tools are currently oriented toward database administrators, but will hopefully be helpful to users in the future as well.

I have reported several times on
Black Duck Software,
which maintains a database of open source software and lets companies check their own code against it to make sure no one has snuck in something from an open source project that taints the company's product. Black Duck is facing (literally across the aisle at LinuxWorld) a new competitor,
Palamida. One of the services stressed by this new company is a database of binary fingerprints that lets one search for infringing binaries as well as source code. The search for binary infringement is like the snaring for viruses in email, and indeed Palamida bases its technology on research in the area of viruses.

Penguin Bowl quiz show

In previous years I haven't bothered to report on this LinuxWorld Expo fixture, which has a precedent in the incredibly wacky and stunning Internet Quiz Shows that Jon Orwant put together starting in 1997 for the O'Reilly Perl Conference (now there's a bit of free software trivia). But I find it harder to ignore the Penguin Bowl this year because I found myself on the stage. I was part of a "Media" team that competed against at "Analyst" team for the prize (membership on both teams was very loosely defined).

When asked to join the media team, I wanted to protest that the combination of search engines, handheld computers, and wireless connections has rendered obsolete the practice of memorizing facts and therefore downgraded the value of quiz shows. But I am not hard to draw in when an opportunity to make a fool of one's self publicly comes up, as you can tell from the quantity of my blogs.

The analysts pulled off some impressive events, such as writing infinite loops (which MC Jeremy Allison of the Samba team called patentable perpetual motion machines) in eight different languages. But the media ended up slightly ahead, thanks mostly to the vast knowledge store of Don Marti, editor in chief of the Linux Journal. I picked up some points on the easier questions, such as, "Which desktop came first, KDE or GNOME?" My answer on this question made up for my incorrectly identifiying the inventor of the mouse as Alan Kay rather than Douglas Englebart. But my main contribution, I think, came at a point when the media had left the analysts in the dust, and I tried to sooth their feelings by explaining that the media was winning because we never get fired for saying wrong things, and therefore are bigger risk-takers.

The overall point is that we had fun and the judges balanced justice with charity, so the Penguin Bowl upheld a model of what the open source movement should be.