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I just returned from LinuxCon, the Linux Foundation’s premier conference, held this year at the warm, muggy Boston waterfront. There were many interesting items to report, these are only a few:

  • MeeGo is emerging as a powerful alternative to Android, partly due to its excellent user interfaces (albeit highly Intel-centric driver support) but, in my mind, mostly due to its adherence to open-source standards. In opposition to Android’s divergence from mainline, MeeGo‘s central philosophy is very much in line with the Open Source Way, and that is a very good thing to see in embedded Linux. I am hopeful that they will adopt much of the incredible work being done by the Linaro folks in bringing ARM support to Linux in general. Note as well that MeeGo has been selected by GENIVI as the reference software for future in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) systems, and MeeGo certainly looks up to the task. I may be forced to revise my prior opinions about netbooks as a result of the demos I encountered.
  • Oracle had a large (though relatively ignored) table at the conference, and Oracle SVP Linux & Virtual Engineering Wim Coekaerts gave an interesting keynote the first day explaining some of the Linux-based work going on inside Oracle. This, however, was immediately overshadowed just after the conference when Oracle sued Google over the use of Java, a suit which appears to be not only baseless but outright hostile. News like this confirms the worries many of us have about Oracle’s stewardship of the valuable open projects they have acquired along with Sun Microsystems: Java, VirtualBox, and of course MySQL, which some have opined was the reason for acquiring Sun in the first place. (Personally, I tend to think it has more to do with Sun’s enterprise server customer base.)
  • Speaking of MySQL, Monty’s excellent team has countered with a new fork called MariaDB, which looks remarkably like MySQL under the hood. They have also started a community:, a meeting place for open database enthusiasts. is the central point for MariaDB and provides downloads, a blog, and a developer wiki.
  • On Monday, Teaching Open Source gave an education mini-summit that I was honored to help organize. Between 20 and 30 interested folks – educators, administrators, students, entrepreneurs, and industry professionals – came together to discuss the best methods for teaching open source and getting students involved in the processes and communities early. Many fantastic ideas were explored. Video and audio should be available soon, and Fedora hero Máirín Duffy has written up an excellent set of notes on the day.
  • Yours truly gave a resounding talk (standing room only!) on the subject of desktop Linux entitled Desktop Distribution Showdown. The slides are available [PDF], and look for an article on the subject very soon be sure to read the exciting companion article.

All in all, LinuxCon and the Education mini-summit were intense, informative, and highly community-oriented. I was glad to meet new friends and see old ones, and I am already looking forward to next year.

The Linux Foundation’s second annual fall all-Linux conference, LinuxCon, is set this year for Boston, MA, August 10-12. There are some excellent keynote speakers who have just been announced, and it is ultra cheap – only $300 for three days of rubbing shoulders with Linux luminaries like Ted T’so and Stormy Peters. If you are a student it is only $100, but remember that early bird registration ends tomorrow (Friday May 6) so go do it!

I will also be speaking at LinuxCon this year on two subjects: Embedded Linux (of course) in the form of an Embedded Linux BoF, and Desktop Linux in the form of a usability showdown among the top desktop distros, including Ubuntu, Fedora, and OpenSuSE (hi Zonker!). I’ll post a link here as soon as the official schedule is announced, and I hope to see you there.

This is apparently my week off from posting and discussing open-source issues. Today, we report that Popular Mechanics has created an archive of their entire 137-year history and placed it online for free. (Thanks to Wired for the link)

Completely and utterly awesome. And (very) tangentially related to open source and embedded systems, as the gadgets shown in this venerable magazine are the forerunners of today’s technology. (How’s that for a justification?)

Nokia and Intel made headlines yesterday by introducing MeeGo, a merger of Nokia‘s Maemo platform and Intel‘s Moblin, which was put under the auspices of the Linux Foundation last year.

Bloggers from the Linux Foundation are propounding the news, as they should—Moblin is now under their purview, so they were the ones who decided it should be merged. However, at least one dissenting viewpoint comes form Vision Mobile’s “Thucydides Sigs” (best nom de plume I have seen in a while), who proclaims that “Two (M)onkeys don’t make a (G)orilla. But they sure make a lot of noise“.

“Thucydides” makes a few interesting points. One is the obvious, that Android is swamping the mobile market right now, leaving both Maemo and Moblin behind in the mobile consumer electronics space. The move also enables Maemo to enter into Moblin’s markets, including automotive, which is by some accounts the fastest-growing embedded sector.

The dissenting view in the article is actually more an observation on motive. Intel’s involvement means something to Nokia and Maemo that is reminiscent of what it meant to Wind River Linux when Intel bought Wind River last year—a perceived threat to take market share away from ARM. Whether this is actually the case remains to be seen. Wind River continues to provide support for ARM processors, despite some warnings from pundits, though it continues to fall behind MontaVista’s rising star.

My opinion? “Thucydides” is playing devil’s advocate here with a snappy headline, but showing us in the meat of the article what is plainly obvious: this merger is good for embedded Linux in general, rising the tide and lifting all of us little boats.

While stealing market share may have been Intel’s motive for this merger, I am frankly not sure it matters. What is certain is that two promising yet fragmentary major open-source projects have merged to form a single project much stronger than either of them would have been alone, and what’s more, they have unique opportunities that place them in partly the same market as Android—providing healthy competition—and partly in orthogonal markets, increasing the reach of embedded open-source software greatly and further increasing choice for developers. As a developer’s advocate, I have to get behind that.

FD: I work for MontaVista, w00t!