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Editor's Note from the Road: Blown Away

Feb 15, 2006, 03:00 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Brian Proffitt)

By Brian Proffitt
Managing Editor

Coming in to the Open Source Business Conference, I was obviously expecting a lot of suits. And I certainly got them. But what I have been completely blown away by was the sheer amount of buzz generated at this show.

Have I been subverted by booth babes? Overloaded with giveaway goodies? No and no. First off, there are hardly any boothes actually here. The layout of the show floor right away strikes you as different. There are tables around the edge of the large convention room, where the vendors reside. But in the center of the room are tables and chairs where attendees, speakers, and vendors can just sit.

And talk.

And boy do they talk. A lot. These people are hearing the news from the vendors and actually discussing with them what they heck it means. (They certainly asked questions of SugarCRM when Microsoft announced their technical partnership.) They listen to the problems others are having and they volunteer solutions.

Now "buzz" may not be the best term, because it implies form without substance. And, to be sure, there's some of that here, but I have been very impressed with the quality of the discussions I have been hearing here.

I mentioned that last weekend's SCALE conference down in LA was a perfect opportunity for business folks and end user/developers to interact, and I still believe that. But this show demonstrates the power of the think tank, where ideas feed on each other and create an energy that will carry the open source business community forward for quite some time.

Here's an example: today I scheduled three formal interviews. I ended up getting pulled aside by various attendees and vendors and picked up enough material for nine stories. At least.

Some of the really exciting stuff I have seen and heard today?

There's XML11, which is a project out on SourceForge that is working on a way to create AJAX code without actually manipulating JavaScript. Time and time again, I hear that AJAX is really cool, but getting JavaScript to do the things in AJAX is really really hard. XML11 proposes letting developers code Java in the IDE of their choice and then translating it into JavaScript.

Now this is still in the prototype phase, but after talking with the project lead, Arno Puder, I have to say there is some really strong potential in this project. And they can use some additional bodies to refine the project. Currently the code translations are widget-based, so complex AWT apps aren't possible. But if more coders join in, I don't see why this limitation has to remain.

Another very interesting product was rPath's rBuilder. This is a software build tool that can be used by independent software vendors to custom build their application on a custom Linux distro and distribute it. So SugarCRM or Alfresco will use this to roll a perfectly configured version of their product and the operating system underneath it--all on one CD.

Yeah, yeah, this is just a fancy form of certification, right? No, it actually inverts the application certification model. Red Hat certifies for apps by trying to get them to build to the lowest common denominator of Linux. If an app needs a component that Red Hat doesn't want to offically support, then the app is out of luck.

With rBuilder, the ISV can make a Linux distro that perfectly fits their needs. On their terms, not the distro company's. In their words, they are helping to create software appliances for ISV customers.

There's more, and I'll cover it in near future articles. People here are ready to leverage open source in brand-new ways, and we are all going to reap the benefits.