maddogs, Englishmen and Germans: CeBIT and a trip to the UK

Author's Note: For those of you who are impatient, or short of time, and are only looking for “meat” in a blog entry, I have made those “meaty phrases” bold. Some phrases are in italics and you may want to read those too. You should definitely read the text that is both italicized and in bold. For the rest of you, sit back and enjoy...]


It all started with an email from my friend Hans-Jörg Ehren from the Medialinx-gruppe in Germany. Medialinx-gruppe is the new parent company of Linux New Media, for whom I write articles and blog.


Hans wanted to know if I would like to come to CeBIT, the world's largest computer and telephony show, held every year in Hannover, Germany. While I hate going to the show because of the crowds, the lack of hotel rooms and the often raw weather, I (once again) went and participated in the Linux Park that they put on every year. This year the Park was in Hall Six and there were quite a few vendors there as well as a “CMS Garden” and a Mobile Park also done by Medialinx.


When I say that I hate going to CeBIT, some of that is because of the notoriously bad lodging conditions that you typically have to put up with. This year was no different, as Hans and I were staying in a one bedroom apartment: Hans in the bedroom and me sleeping on the couch. It was a nice couch, but later I found out that Hans did not cook and since the landlady was not there (most of the time you get both bed and breakfast), I spent a few days cooking hard-boiled and fried eggs so we had something to eat in the morning. And you thought I only did Free Software.....


<LEFT: Jon "maddog" Hall speaking at CeBIT 2013>


This year I gave five talks on topics ranging from an introduction to FOSS (because there are a lot of non-FOSS people there) to a talk about the effects of Free Software and Open Hardware on the industry in general. In addition I showed off a prototype of a thin client workstation/media-center using a standard LCD monitor and a Raspberry Pi running the Raspbmc distribution.


Before I left Hans also asked me to present the award for “Best Open Source Hardware” at the Linux New Media awards. I was happy to do this, since the award was to be presented to Pete Lomas for the Raspberry Pi, and I really like that machine and the Raspberry Pi Foundation. Little did I know about “the rest of the story”.


LPI had a booth in Hall Nine, and although this does not sound that far away (“Only three halls”), the fairgrounds at CeBIT are so large it takes an “elderly guy” about ten minutes to walk from one hall to the other. There I found the LPI representatives and they too were showing off the Raspberry Pi to people.


On Thursday night was the Linux New Media Awards and right before the awards event started, I was told that a “Lifetime Achievement Award” was going to be given and would I be kind enough to receive it? “Of course!”, but then I found out it was for Linus Torvalds who was not there to have the award given to him. Therefore I received it for Linus and (as I told the audience) for the Linux community.


This was the second time that I had participated in a “Lifetime Achievement Award” for Linus. The first time was at Uniforum in 1997 and Linus had accepted the award, but only as a recognition of the work that the entire community had done. More on this previous award later...."The rest of the story".


Friday night we all went to the Munich Halle, a very large Bavarian-style restaurant and beer hall that I like attending every year. We had a table for twelve and blended in well with the other 2000 people in the Halle. My old friend Klaus Knopper was there too. Klaus had also given some talks at Linux Park, mostly about the newest release of Knoppix which was special to the event, and would only be available through Linux New Media magazines for the first month since Linux New Media had funded a bit of the development. I bought four sets of “flashing BSD horns” for myself and three young members of the Linux community that were with us, and we ate and drank far into the night. Perhaps a bit too far....


<ABOVE: maddog's CeBIT friends (some with "flashing BSD horns") indulge in a post-conference de-briefing at Munich Halle in Hannover. LPI Staff note: Other pictures of maddog at CeBIT are available at Linux Magazine online and there is also an H-online interview with him from CeBIT. Also available is an LPI CeBIT photo gallery and story>


On Sunday I had to get up very early and flew to the United Kingdom. There I stayed in a very nice Bed and Breakfast in Cambridge, England. That night I met up with an old friend, Richard Morell, who is a cloud evangelist for Red Hat Software and who took me out to a proper English Pub for a nice steak pie and beer. The only downside was that Richard kept complaining about what a “cheap date” I was...not wanting to go to have a “proper dinner” (whatever that was).


The next day Richard and I got together to do a Podcast and I rattled on for a while about all sorts of things that (for some reason) got Richard excited, so here is the link to both Podcast I and Podcast II-- for what it is worth. After that we went outside and wandered around in a snowstorm until my Irish host from LPI-UK, Bill Quinn, and John Meany of LPI showed up in Bill's very English car.


[Editors Note: Bill now tells me his car is French. A French car in England.....those globalists!]


Squeezing my suitcases and me into the car that already had Bill, John, their suitcases and other “stuff” in it was a miracle of packing efficiency, but we said “Good-bye!” to Richard and drove off to the University of Cambridge.


Cambridge is a very special place for me. A seat of higher education, it is also where I first saw the Queen Mother during her Diamond Jubilee several years ago. I had been with my good friend, David Rusling, who wrote the Milo boot loader for Alpha Linux, and out of the meeting with the Queen Mother I actually got a very nice commemorative plate and small stand for it.


The University of Cambridge also has other meaning for me, since it was the place that the EDSAC computer was designed in 1949, which was the first computer that could store its own program in its own memory and as a project was headed up by a relatively young man named Maurice Wilkes. Dr. Wilkes was also credited with the development of microcode, subroutine libraries and a variety of other things important to modern day computing. Many years later I was fortunate enough to meet Dr. Wilkes when he was working for Digital Equipment Corporation. During that time Dr. Wilkes and I had dinner several times and we had him speak at Merrimack College where I was teaching. I also bought him a set of wine classes with the Merrimack College logo on it, which affected him deeply, since his wine glass collection had been smashed on the way over from the United Kingdom.


The University is also know for their work on XEN virtualization, and finally (and recently) for the development of the Raspberry Pi.


We had set up quite a program, with me kicking off a talk about “How to make or save money with Free Software,” followed by a short talk about the ARM architecture by my old friend David Rusling, fresh back from a long trip to Hong Kong. David is now the CTO of Linaro--an association of companies that are working together on the ARM architecture. It was great presenting with David again, as it had been a long time.


<RIGHT: Heidi Howard "wins" maddog's "Linux quiz" contest and receives a Linux Essentials' T-Shirt at the University of Cambridge


Finally we had a presentation on a project called “Signposts” by a young lady named Heidi Howard who talked about a way to replace the concept of logging into a central server to make the connection between two clients behind NAT routers--among other things.


After that we were put up in rooms at the University, and went out for dinner to another fine pub with some of the students and professors. Then (after saying “good-bye” to John Meany who returned home) Bill and I then went to our rooms and to bed.


The next day Bill and I went to Open University where we did another podcast. Open University is a rather large institution “logically” as they do a lot of distance teaching over the Internet. Unfortunately we did not meet with any of the students there, but we did have a great podcast.


<BELOW: maddog and Andrew Smith of the Open University prepare for their podcast>

Then Bill and I hopped into the car again and drove quickly to Barnfield College. Barnfield is built in an old factory and is a college that is oriented towards getting people trained for a job--much like a technical college in the United States. At Barnfield they have large areas of the building where students are practicing building a house, or learning how to lay bricks, or learning welding. In the area that I was going they were learning networking and of course FOSS plays in heavily there.


I had been going to talk about “education” at Barnfield but seeing the students and getting a feeling for what they needed, I switched to the “How to make a living with Free Software” talk, as I felt that was more important for them at the time. I liked the students there as they reminded me of the students I had at Hartford State Technical College so many years ago and who were eager to learn the meat of the courses--not just the fluff.


<BELOW: maddog speaks to students at Barnfield College>

Out in the hallway I started asking one of the professors if they had exposed the students to several projects in networking like SAMBA. “No”, said the professor, “I have wanted to do that but I just have not had the time to investigate it so I can teach it to the students.” I looked at him, smiled, and said “Why not have the students investigate it and make a presentation to the other students about the SAMBA technology? After all, they have all the documentation, all the source code, and they can put it up on their own machines to try it out. This is FREE SOFTWARE....YOU do not have to TEACH EVERYTHING anymore!” The professor looked at me for a couple of seconds, then a smile spread over his face. I have a feeling a new age of learning is about to hit Barnfield.


Bill and I left Barnfield for our third and last stop that day, the Birmingham City University (BCU). That night we were staying in another hotel in the middle of the city that not only had no parking but did not even have a place to pull up the car and unload. So we double-parked in a bus lane while Bill unloaded the car and I stayed with the suitcases, moving them slowly toward the door of the hotel, while Bill parked the car in a parking lot.


We took a cab to the Birmingham City University. Here we had our last set of talks--this time joined by Phil Andrews, Managing Director of Red Hat UK, with Phil leading off first. I was (again) going to talk about how to make or save money with Free Software.


Phil's talk was about how Red Hat as a company made money off selling services. As I listened to his talk I realized that while we were both talking about the same thing--of how companies can sell services--Phil's talk was one of a manager of a large corporation and mine was more about “Mom and Pop” types of consulting companies. Phil used “management speak” that would go over well with a banker or venture capitalist. My talk was aimed more at the technical person trying to start a business.


Phil 's talk and my talk complimented each other.


<LEFT: Following maddog's presentation LPI hosted a three day "train-the-trainer" program on Linux Essentials at BCU.  The event was jointly sponsored by Wiley/Sybex, publisher of "Linux Essentials")


After that we (once again) went out to a nice pub for dinner and beers (there seems to be a theme here) and I gave my last Raspberry Pi to Bill Quinn so they could use it as a prize at a three-day training session that LPI was sponsoring over the next few days.


Bill and I went back to our hotel after that, since we had to get up at 4 A.M. the next day to go to Heathrow Airport so I could fly home.


It was a long trip for me but I would like to thank LPI for sponsoring my time at CeBIT (the trade show I love to hate) and the trip to the United Kingdom, Cambridge and Birmingham.


Before I stop, I had promised to tell you about the first time Linus got a “Lifetime Achievement Award” from Uniforum.


The award was suggested by a member of Uniforum's board. This person argued that even though Linus was only 27 at the time, the impact of Linux (even then) was so great that he had probably done more than most people much older.


When the board of Uniforum approved the award, this person insisted on giving the award to Linus himself, and also insisted on taking Linus to breakfast the day of the award ceremony.


When Linus came back from the breakfast I asked him what the man had said to him and Linus said that the man had asked if there was anything that either he or his company could do for Linux.


I was so embarrassed”, said Linus, “I could not think of a single thing.”


I responded: “It just goes to show you, Linus that you are not in marketing. I would have said 'Douglas, give me your customer list'.”


For the man who took Linus to breakfast that day and who nominated Linux for a lifetime achievement award at the age of 27, and who presented that award to Linus that night was none other than Doug Michels, one of the founders of Santa Cruz Operation (SCO).


Doug is a good man and it was not him or his company that created the problems for Linux later on.


And now you know the rest of the story.



<ABOVE: Doug Michels presents a "Lifetime Achievement Award" in 1997 to Linus Torvalds>