Linux World Expo and Conference Frankfurt 2002 -- Report
The expo took place in a part of hall 6 at the Frankfurt Messe from Tuesday, Oct. 29th till Thursday, Oct. 31st.
Building the booth wasn't that easy as you might think. We had some problems finding someone who could bring all the hardware to the exhibition area. Luckily, Jan Haas offered his help and his car.
When arriving at the booth, we were a little bit irritated, because our booth had only one wall, while Alex thought all the time we would have two walls. So he threw away his plan, moved the furniture we got, and after two hours we had a nice looking booth.
The biggest problem was to get a beamer. Although we found in Achim Lange from Network Appliance someone who could lend us one, we where unable to get it to the exhibition area (Achim got ill suddenly being unable to bring the beamer himself). But finally we got it, and against Alex' fears that nobody would see anything on the dark gray walls, it looked very good.
We were really far off, the booth most distant from the entrance in a corner. On the other hand just opposite of us was the Credativ booth with Michael Meskes and Noël Köthe, who equipped us with CDs and flyers and came over for a chat from time to time. As the booth only had one wall, we could not put too many posters there, the beamer was using most of it. We had to share one DSL connection with the whole .org-Pavilion, but most of the time it worked out. Two notebooks on a small table and one desktop in the corner equipped the booth, the beamer was plugged into one of the notebooks. All computers were i386.
Alexander Schmehl, Jörg Jaspert, Chris Halls and Michael Banck where at the booth most of the time. Daniel Priem was at the booth all day on Tuesday, Rene Engelhard helped out on Wednesday afternoon and Erik Tews showed up for a short time on Tuesday afternoon, too. As noted above, Noël came over several times for a chat and was talking to visitors, too.
Naturally, there was a quite changing flux of visitors at our booth. Most of the time, one or two of us were not in conversation and able to read mail or have a look around at the other booths. There were some longer periods with no visitors at all (towards the evenings usually) and sometimes the booth was swamped with people...
There where several types of people coming to our booth:
- People from corporations or public administration who screened every project, asking us: 'So, what's special about, uhm, Debian?' I told them general stuff about 'stable', security.debian.org, non-free != Debian and so on.
- Similar people as above, but asking like: 'So, I've heard Debian has excellent security updates. How does that work?' They were quite nice to talk to, the conversation was quite technically usually.
- Staff from other booths like AMD or Sun going: 'Well, we have to use SuSE|Red Hat at work, but at home I've got Debian running of course. Great work!' They usually stayed for a small chat and/or SuSE- bashing.
- Staff from other booths who asked for specific Debian-related stuff. For example, an Oracle employee who was put at the SuSE booth once came over asking if Oracle ran on Debian, and what he could tell his customers unofficially if they asked for Debian. An AMD employee told me he'd loved to see an Opteron port of Debian and was discussing 64bit versus 32bit user-space a bit with me.
- Regular users who apparently didn't know Debian too well, took a CD and left.
- Regular Debian users who applauded us for our work and usually stayed quite a while asking all kinds of general questions and/or telling stories about their use of Debian/Linux (blocking conversation with other, still-to-be-converted people sometimes). One of them even wanted our autographs on his newly-bought LinuxTag Debian CD-Set...
- Regular Debian users with very specific questions that we tried to answer. One of them asked how to install some obscure variant of an alpha box which needs a custom kernel or something, for example.
- Celebrities. Klaus Knopper, the guy behind the famous Knoppix Live-CD visited our booth on Wednesday IIRC. He showed how to install Knoppix permanently on a hardisk and experienced a Debian install for the first time ever. Jörg Schilling was at our booth for a long time on Wednesday and Thursday, explaining his smake build system and some of his other programs to Jörg (and Michael, when he was able to listen). Very interesting. Frank Ronneburg, author of the 'Debian GNU/Linux Anwenderhandbuch' and Ralf Nolden, KDevelop maintainer and recent Debian convert were the other celebrities.
We had flyers and LinuxTag-CDs. Some people asked for posters or T-Shirts, but I think they were too few that it would have been worth the effort (I bought an FSF shirt though). Virtually nobody gave any donations in exchange for CDs, it's a business thing after all. We ran out of CDs sometime on Thursday, burning blank CDs for interested visitors with Jörg's burner. But Michael Meskes still has 700 Flyers left. Oh, and LinuxLand 'donated' some PC-case stickers with a Debian swirl to the developers, after some talking-in.
Most of the time on Tuesday and Wednesday the beamer was used to show off 'bb' as a screen-saver. Alexander Schmehl walked a couple of visitors through the installation on Wednesday and Thursday which caught the interest of other visitors even more :) Perhaps we should put a sign 'Installation demonstrations on demand' somewhere at the booth next time, I think it was a very nice demonstration.
The Social Event/The Evenings
The so called "Linux World get together Party" was a good and well organized party! Sponsored by AMD, the organizers rented the basement of the "Römer" (that is where our city government resides, not cheap), and rented some buses to bring us there from the exhibition area. Of course they hired a very good party service, which made a very good buffet. Food and drinks were for free, and the only rub of it was the music. I think the DJ wanted to finish early, so he played his music with increasing loudness ;)
I was really happy with the expo. Our booth seemed to be one of the most frequented of the .org pavilion. I was able to talk to a lot of interested and interesting persons during the time, as well as chatting with the fellow developers and users. I think every single person I've talked to who knew Debian already was very positive about it, some seemed to have come because of our booth alone. The ones who didn't know about it seemed to be at least a little bit impressed.