CeBIT - Free Exhibit Space Offered to FOSS projects

Jon

Paw Prints: Writings of the maddog

Nov 28, 2010 GMT
Jon maddog Hall

CeBIT, held in Hanover, Germany each year, is the largest IT trade show in the world. Companies come from all over the world to show their goods and services to each other, and to make deals. For several years now Linux New Media, the publishers of various Linux magazines around the world has sponsored a “Linux Park” at CeBIT.

For the past three years, in the spirit of “Free and Open”, Linux New Media has offered free exhibit space to Open Source projects. This gives an excellent opportunity for projects to “show their stuff” to both “the choir” of FOSS people that stop by and to other people who are just learning about FOSS. Interested projects have about two weeks to find out more and sign up.

In the late 1990s I started attending CeBIT as a function of Linux International. It was very difficult to get booth space at the event, as there was often a waiting list of several years to get into one of the many halls. Fortunately I found a branch of CeBIT called “Hanover Fairs, USA” whose task it was to find emerging companies from the United States and sell them “turn-key” booths in order to encourage their exposure and growth.

Three companies shared the Linux International booth that year. SuSE (who also had a pod on a corner of the SAP booth), Caldera (represented by Ransom Love), and Red Hat Software (represented by Bob Young). I made a fourth person, and we told the story of Linux and handed out CDs as fast as we could. Looking back I remember that we had made an agreement that we were going to market “Linux” and not just one brand of it, so it was interesting to hear Bob Young tell people to “make sure and try out the SuSE Linux too”.

There were a few other companies at CeBIT that year that could say the word “Linux”, and one of them was a company called “Magic Software” from Israel that even had a layered product on Linux. Years later they sponsored some live penguins at a Linuxworld event in California, but that is another story.

The next year Linux International and Hanover Fairs, USA had several different companies join in CeBIT, and we had an entire isle of companies devoted to Linux. Well, almost an entire isle, as there was one small company that got caught in the middle of “the Linux place”. I felt sorry for them, because there were so many people in our isle talking about Linux that this poor company could not get any customers to look at their products. As soon as the people found out that their products were not Linux oriented, they just walked away. I felt sorry for them, but happy for us.

That year we also started having drawings for prizes. Not the least of which was a drawing for a DEC Alpha “workstation” complete with a 21 inch monitor, which was huge for the day. In addition, the workstation was hand-painted with pictures of ice and snow and penguins.

In 1999 the “New Beetle” Volkswagen was coming out, and SAP (the largest software vendor in Germany) had a “Beetle” in their exhibit with three stuffed “Tux” penguins inside (one very large one behind the wheel and two smaller ones on the seat beside.

it and in back). On the opening day of the show, the Chancellor of Germany, Gerhard Schröder, stopped by the SAP area with a flock of reporters and asked “why are the penguins in the car?” As all of the lights turned on and the press cameras were rolling, the booth staff patiently started telling him not about SAP, but about Linux and Free Software, to which Mr. Schröder kept saying “Yes, yes, I know all about Linux, but what are the penguins doing here?” I was fortunate enough to be there and see this happen, and I laughed all the way back to our area.

That year we also noticed the “Magically Appearing Tuxes”. On the first day of the show there were only one or two Tux penguins visible as you walked through the halls. Over the week, however, Tux penguins started appearing wherever there were Linux systems or products that ran on them. Exhibitors had found that having a Tux penguin attracted customers, so they bought them and put them up. That year I was given a three foot high Tux penguin, and had to pay a couple of hundred dollars to have him shipped home. He still sits on the bench of my player reed organ.

Three foot tall Penguin
Big Tux

After a couple of years our little band of Free Software outgrew Hanover Fairs, USA, and we moved to Hall 2 with the “Linux Pavilion”. Here we had a whole facility set aside for us, including two interpreters, a coffee room, and (of course) lots of booth space. That year we had thirteen larger booths as well as several smaller ones. A friend of mine, “Lectric” Bill Pridgen, who is a great graphic artist drew several large Tux posters and we had them hanging on the walls of the pavilion. I have two of those pictures in my house too.

Jimi Tux
Jimi Tux by Lectric Bill Pridgen

Eventually the CeBIT management really noticed Linux and FOSS, and dedicated a day to our vendors giving talks about FOSS.

A few years after that I found that there was another “Linux Pavilion”, this one in Hall Number 6. Run by Linux New Media, it was attracting some Linux companies to Hall 6 while I was attracting them to Hall 2. Not seeing any benefit in splitting the Linux companies, after ten years of going to CeBIT and helping to build the interest, I decided to cede the job of running the CeBIT Linux Park to Linux New Media. 2006 was the last year that I attended the trade show.

Now, after five years, Linux New Media is suggesting that I attend CeBIT again and give a keynote about Linux and FOSS, which I would be happy to do. And I hope that some of the really great FOSS projects take them up on the offer of free booth space.

For CeBIT has one more thing that I like about it, and that is the “Munich Hall”, a beer garden in the classic Munich style with a German band on either side and thousands of people drinking beer and eating. The number of times that we set up several tables and all of the people from the “Linux Stands” would eat together (along with some amazingly drunk people from all over the world).

The Munich Halle at CeBIT
The Munich Halle at CeBIT

FOSS people of the world, join “maddog” in the Munich Hall at CeBIT this spring! Hurry, as you only have two weeks to discuss this in your communities and apply for the free exhibit space!

maddog at Munich Halle
maddog at the beginning of the night at the Munich Halle
maddog at the end of the night
maddog at the end of the night
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