The launch of Perl 7 and other significant OSCon events

by Andy Oram

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Total registration has reached 1,650 at the
O'Reilly Open Source Convention,
and it showed in the overflow crowds spilling out from some of the

By the way, six of the kernel hackers I mentioned in
Monday's weblog
will be here for a panel at 10:30 tomorrow.

I can't say much about this morning's keynote speeches, even
though I heard them twice. Relying more on the slides than the jittery
sound system, I can report that the
by Stormy Peters of Hewlett-Packard offered a no-nonsense guide to
bringing free software into a large business based on her company's
extensive experience. Companies are used to monitoring the spread and
use of proprietary applications, but she recommended that they also
provide policies and controls about what Open Source software can be
run and who is allowed to run it.

Industry leader Mitch Kapor offered in this
a bit of a personal odyssey concerning Open Source, a bit more of a
social history, and something of the role played by his
Open Source Applications Foundation.
He put up a rather dismal report card
(which a
expands upon)
concerning Linux's readiness in various areas ranging from peripheral
support to applications. His talk got down to quite practical levels
as well, even to the question of font compatibility. He predicted that
Linux would start appearing in call centers and other restricted work
environments in 2004, but no on standard consumer or office desktops
until at least 2007. Deployment outside the U.S. has progressed much
farther than within. I guess Microsoft employees still have plenty of
time to cash in their new company stock.

My coverage of the conference sessions is also sparser today than href="">yesterday. I had
meetings to attend, and because I stayed out late with some O'Reilly
authors last night I took off a bit of time this afternoon to get a
horizontal perspective on things.

OpenSSI (Single System Image) Linux Cluster Project,
Bruce Walker of Hewlett Packard laid out to some 35 attendees the
clever and ambitious steps with which this project solves the problems
of transparent, self-managing clustering. In a brief hour he uncovered
some of the magic behind processes hat migrated between nodes in a
self-balancing manner that depended on self-repairing networks.

Take for instance the carefully planned way in which processes can
continue using interprocess communication mechanisms (semaphores,
pipes, and so forth) even when bouncing from one system to another. A
single IPC nameserver keeps track of all such IPC mechanisms
throughout the cluster. If it goes down, a new node is chosen and
built up dynamically with the same information. To send something
through a pipe to a process, one sends it to the nameserver. (There
are unified namespaces for processes, devices, files, and so on.)

Emerging Open Source Business Strategies,
moderated by Tim O'Reilly in the last session of the day, rounded out
the theme with which he opened the conference in yesterday's
keynote. He brought in managers from three companies that somehow
market Open Source software to discuss motels for making money. Ian
Murdock of Progeny pointed out that commoditization is not necessarily
bad for business: "You can build a great business around a commodity,
but there are only a few slots there." But an attendee told me later
that the casual application of the term "commodity" is misleading. A
commodity is characterized by very low marginal manufacturing
cost. But there is still some manufacturing cost, and that
provides the profit businesses can fight over. This marginal cost is
totally absent in software and information, so they're a whole new

I ended the day with a trip to Powell's Books (a store I mentioned in
first weblog from this conference),
where I met some of the wonderful people who staff O'Reilly's
competition, a party, and an auction to benefit the Perl Foundation.
The Perl community knows how to have fun. Among the items auctioned
were a promise by Guido van Rossum to implement conditional
expressions in Python, and a "Twenty-Five Years of Animal Magnetism"
O'Reilly mug that the audience voted instead to throw against the wall
in a re-enactment of the stunt Jon Orwant employed a few years ago to
indicate his insistence on need for the Perl 6 project.

Come back tomorrow for my wrap-up and observations on the conference
as a whole.