Eye2Eye: Larry Augustin Pt II

Larry Augustin on open source and celebrity programmers

What's VA Linux doing in terms of lobbying government to get people involved with open source?

We do a lot of ISV program. I think we have 120 software firms in our ISV program, and we're lobbying all of those people to move to open source. In fact, one of the services we sell is helping people to go open source to analyse their business to see where they can take open source. Developing new software that is open source, new things that are open source. I think we're pretty pleased with the reaction and the interest.

Is it important that your economic success story involves Linux?

I think that just by setting the example to show that yes, you can have a business which is successful around open source is probably one the biggest things we can do to encourage companies to go open source. And by the way, I don't think we'll have actually done that until we cross the line and are actually profitable. We've got some work to do. We're saying that'll be the end of next year.

Do you ever get any negative feedback as a company or as an individual for having made quite a bit of money from open source?

You know, you'll always get negative feedback, but that's not one we get a lot of feedback on. Mostly you hear things like we need to be off doing more government lobbying against UCITA. That's the kind of thing that'll come in. Alan Cox is right about all that. We can't do everything. We fight the ones where we can.

Do you find it slightly strange the way that programmers have become not just celebrities, but political figures?

I remember at Linux World in San Jose, we rented a limousine for Linus and had rented a nightclub for a party after the show. When Linus pulled up and gets out of this limousine there's a crowd of people outside and they've all got cameras. People are all taking pictures and I'm thinking 'wait a minute, this is a programmer'. It was like being at a Hollywood premiere with movie stars. I don't know how to react. It's completely beyond anything I had ever imagined. That you could have people like Linus revered as rock stars for writing software.

Why do think this has happened?

As a culture somehow we've moved into a place where technology is something to worship, that's cool, right? In the same way we chase around rock stars and movie stars, now we chase around technology and technologists. People who are famous for creating it. I remember the first time I saw Richard Stallman speak. There was a certain sub-set of society who already knew who those people were, but it wasn't quite as wild. Now when Linus keynoted at Comdex there was 10,000 people screaming and cheering. I don't recall anyone screaming for Richard Stallman.

Do you think the fact that Bill Gates hasn't become a 'rock star' is a good example of the fact that his technology is not so revered?

How many people do you know who go around expounding the virtues of Windows being a great technology? No one gets that excited. But it's also about creation. When people are cheering Linux and Linus, you can look around that room and a significant number of people there played some part in contributing to making it great.

To hear Larry Augustine on Perl, Python and taking on Intel read part three of our Eye2Eye interview

Go back to part one

Has the Linux bubble burst? And if it has, is that necessarily a bad thing, or simply a sign of maturity? Regardless of the rhetoric, Mary Jo Foley believes there is enough promise in the basic concept that software is best developed via a cooperative, rather than a competitive model. Go to AnchorDesk UK for the news comment.

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