Singapore Linux Conference/LinuxWorld Singapore 2001
The Singapore Linux Conference/LinuxWorld Singapore 2001 was held on March 21 to 24. LWN editor Liz Coolbaugh was able to attend and speak at this conference. Below you'll find her overall impressions of the event; see also the following writups of specific happenings at the conference.
A history and summary of the eventThe title for this conference is quite long. As one might guess, there is a story behind that. The Singapore Linux Conference started in 1999, sponsored and run by the Linux User Group (Singapore), affectionately known as LUGS. Don't call it the "Singapore Linux User Group". In this case, since Singapore is not just the city in which the group resides, but also the name of the entire nation of four million people, entitling it the "Singapore Linux User Group" has the potential to confuse some locals, by implying that the volunteer group is sponsored by or supported by the government, one of many small lessons in international etiquette to which I was exposed this past week.
To begin again, the 1999 version of the Singapore Linux Conference (now dubbed "Release 1") was entirely a volunteer effort. It included some good ideas that have been kept, such as the LUGS Awards, which annually recognize contributions to Linux and Open Source software both in the Asia/South Pacific region and in Singapore itself, and others that have been not been kept. In that category lies "Linux Family Day", an event held Saturday after the first conference which included demonstrations of software of interest to the families of Linux users and more. Although deemed both successful and a lot of fun by the attendees, it pretty much exhausted the organizers.
The 1999 event was relatively small, with a few hundred attendees. Initially planned with only talks, local companies contacted the organizers and asked for the opportunity to have booths at the event as well.
In 2000 (Release 2), the demands of the event exceeded the available time commitment for volunteers, so a partnership was formed with IDG World Expo. LUGS continued to plan and run the talks, while IDG took over arranging for exhibitors and was given overall responsibility for coordinating the event. Held in February that year, before the Linux and Internet stock downslide, the conference drew yet more people, while the exhibit area, which required no entry fee, drew over 10,000 people. This was the first year with the long, combined titled.
Still, competition for this year's LUGS Awards 2001 was very respectable. Singaporean winners included eLinux, for its Beowulf cluster solutions and Enixus Pte Ltd, for its 100% Linux business environment (including the Gimp and Star Office 5.2). Outside of Singapore, Bastille Linux garnered a prize for best new Enterprise Application for Security. Awards were also given for Best New Hardware (Celestix Networks' Aries Server), Wireless (3ui's Ophelia), and to Open Source Telecom, for being "the first and only provider of entirely free software based enterprise class telephony applications and services in the market today".
Last, the Temasek Award was given to Hwa Chong Junior College, one of the local earliest adopters of Linux and an important local mirror for popular Open Source software.
Over the short space of time available, I sought to find a definitive answer to why the size of the event had diminished so dramatically. LUGS is still clearly an active and passionate group, with whom it was a pleasure to work. The staff of IDG World Expo, who held overall responsibility for coordinating the event, were also efficient and friendly. The combination of the two appears to be beneficial to both; the strong volunteer influence benefits the conference program and draws loyal attendees, while the professional staff of IDG World Expo can more easily attend to the details of running such a conference.
I was told, informally, that the situation in Singapore is not the same as in Indonesia and Malaysia. The relative wealth of Singapore makes commercial software both the profit center for many of their large companies and the financial issues of software licensing less of a concern. In other, less-wealthy areas, the cost-savings issues have driven Linux to a higher prominence. I certainly hope to get an opportunity in the future to visit other regions in Asia/South Pacific to get a better feel for the similarities and differences.
Other side notes
Nonetheless, it was great fun. The program is aimed at a highly technical audience, so I didn't have to start from the ground up. David promised to send me a note if they make a clip from the show available on their website and I've asked the LUGS members to make me a copy if they see it published, but I also know I may never see the results
The members of LUGS that I would also wish to thank are almost too numerous. They certainly include Raymond Ng, LUGS Chairperson, Harish Pillay, who answered so many of my questions so patiently, Sanjeev Gupta, Willy Too, all the staff from eXtropia (who made excellent dinner companions) and many, many more. I certainly hope to return to Singapore to see you again and look forward to visits from those of you that make it over to the "States".
On a non-Linux note, my three days in Singapore, accompanied by a friend, were also wonderful. We visited the Singapore Zoo, which is world-famous and quite beautiful, had breakfast with the orangutans, walked the "World's Only Night Safari", visited Chinatown, the Raffles Hotel, the Financial District, Hindu temples, Chinese temples, the Botanical Gardens (my absolute favourite) and dined out in the evening on Boat Quay. Everywhere we went, we were met with courtesy, kindness and best of all, a sense of humour. I can't wait to return, or to extend my travels to the areas around it, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and more. It was quite difficult to return to cold temperatures, misty skies and snow in Colorado.
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