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Linux Journal: Viva Las Linux!

Nov 25, 1999, 02:04 (2 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Jason Kroll)

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"The excitement really started on Monday the 15th, with Linus Torvalds' keynote speech at the Venetian Ballroom of the Las Vegas Convention Center. Hundreds upon hundreds of us filled up a vacated parking garage, waiting in line on the cement for hours in hopes of seeing and hearing our leader. Finally, the lines started moving and we packed into the enormous ballroom and fixed our eyes on the stage. The announcer had such a tacky, Vegas voice it was hard to hear what he was saying over the laughter, which must be mentioned because Vegas is a genuinely strange city in the middle of a desert wasteland and one must appreciate its sublime tackiness."

"Regardless, before we got to see Linus, we were subjected to a canned routine from a Ziff-Davis executive who apparently thought "Linux" was a company and its president was named "maddog"... If there was a used-car game show, this guy would be perfect for it. Nevertheless, once that was over, the immortal Jon "maddog" Hall appeared on stage, and the first voice of reason that evening was heard. He told the audience he thought of Linus as a son, and that Linux is our operating system, that Linus has never called it his operating system. Although maddog is one of the big Linux figures and we could have listened to him for a bit longer, he was sagely and brief; he knew why we were there, so perhaps he too was impatient for the show to get started."

"Finally, Linus walked on stage, and for a while he could say very little over the applause and flash photography. Linus is what Willy Loman wanted to be; not just liked, but well-liked, even adored, idolized, and worshiped daily at personal shrines (for example, by the Empeg development team) which no doubt can make a person uncomfortable. He lives in a politically difficult situation, a figurehead for our whole community, who must choose his words carefully so as not to offend. We count on him to keep us unified; we can rely on him not to behave strangely or take sides in vicious feuds; and we respect his plans about the future of the Linux kernel (thus avoiding the forking death of previous UNIX communities). He navigates carefully, not siding against vi or GNU Emacs, one distribution or another, commercial people or the free idealists. Above all, he remains giving and cooperative and most notably "humble": not as in "never be humble, you're not that good", but as one human being who treats other people as human beings (which isn't necessarily "humble" per se, more just reasonable). And then there's Linux, for which he is best known."

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