Maddog Bullish on Open Source

Open-source evangelist John "Maddog" Hall talks about where he thinks Linux is headed.

Linux creator Linus Torvalds may be the main mouthpiece for open source, but another open-source evangelist—John "Maddog" Hall—is working hard behind the scenes to spread adoption of Linux.

If you were at this weeks LinuxWorld conference in San Francisco, you likely ran across Hall, who is executive director of Linux International—a nonprofit organization that disseminates information about Linux, its applications, and advantages—and author of "Red Hat Linux for Dummies."

Hall sat down with eWEEKs Craig Newell at the Ottawa Linux Symposium in July to talk about where he thinks Linux is headed. Excerpts of that interview appear below.

eWEEK: What have you been working on lately?

Hall: I talk a lot with governments, for the most part industry has gotten it. The next really big scene will be the bulk of the independent software vendors [ISVs], and what theyll have to do to meet that marketplace. At the same time, theres a large group of the mom-and-pop businesses I call the "great unwashed." Were trying to interact more with local user groups and give them the marketing ammunition to go out and talk to business, educators and government.

The other day there was a reporter who stood up in a conference and said, "You guys are always talking about technology, but businesses are interested in saving money." A lot of people say, "We dont really need business," but having business associated with it has some advantages. If you think the DMCA [Digital Millenium Copyright Act] is hard to defeat without having something like Linux as a commercial thing, think what it would be like without it. Linux and open source is probably one of the best ways to defeat the DMCA.

Im going to Peru next week to talk to the UN and UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization] about open source. Ive got to tell them that its as much an international resource as the pyramids, and needs that amount of protection. The people who develop free software dont have the money for copyright infringement enforcement. Lots are students. People forget that the copyright laws were created for the common good, and if you accept the fact that copyrights and patents were created for the common good, and if you accept the fact that open-source software was created for the common good, then maybe open-source software deserves more protection than other types of software.

eWEEK: How would you respond to Microsoft assertions that Windows is more secure than Linux?

Hall: Was that before or after that horrible hole that you can drive trucks though? They keep saying Windows is more secure, but the latest thing Microsoft has done is changed the wording on their contracts about liability in case of having copyrighted code and patented code inside of the product. It used to be that you could paraphrase it as "tough luck, too bad." Now I believe what theyre saying is that theyll give you your money back. The problem is this is the very least of the expenses a company would have in this case. If this happened you would have to change your business.

eWEEK: What do you think IBMs role in Linux is, and how are they transitioning that?

Hall: IBM is an interesting company because when you go back a while they were having some problems. Then they pulled in Lou Gerstner, and he almost immediately said IBM is too much of a product company and it has to be more of a services and solution company. When you look at open source, its a services and integration dream. You have all these people generating software and functionality, and you can charge the customers for just the hardware and the engineering. You dont have to pay royalties to some other company to have to use that. I think the management of IBM took a look at this and decided it was the best thing since sliced bread, and it took some of the other companies a while to understand that.

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