Issue #13 November 2005

Red Hat Speaks

In honor of Red Hat Magazine's first birthday, we googled our way across the internet to find choice gems from Red Hat's past. We stumbled upon old faces and places, occasionally foreshadowing things to come. We found that we still get some of the same questions. We hope you enjoy our trip down memory lane.

Bob Young interview, May 1999:

During the press conference you gave at the LinuxWorld show, when I asked you about your plans to open an office in Japan, you gave a very intriguing "no comment." Since Pacific HiTech has the jump on you in the market, can you go into any details about what your plans are over the next year? Japan? Asia? What about China - where Linux has recently made such a big splash?
I take issue with one point you're making, which is that "recently" Linux has made a big splash in China. Years ago, at least what seems like years ago in the Linux business, in the summer of 1995, there was a big push in the US Congress by a bunch of American trade organizations to have China disqualified as a favored nation trading partner. One of these US trade organizations started making a big issue about the Chinese pirating of software and he managed to get himself on television to show how "evil" China is because they pirate software. He held up examples of CD-ROMs that were supposedly examples of pirated software. One of these CD-ROMs was red and marked "Red Linux." I tried contacting the TV network in question to explain to them that it is not possible to pirate Linux, but the reporter I spoke to had never heard of Linux and didn't seem to care. The point is that Linux has been in Japan and in China for quite a few years. What is new is the official use of Linux by businesses and other enterprises. That's what's creating all the buzz in the media. When you get the support of the IBMs, the Compaqs, and the Intels, suddenly the journalists realize that something significant is happening. When only the otaku [computer geeks] were using Linux, then there was a question as to whether or not it would be important in the future of computing. IBM is supporting Linux because IBM is finding that their customers are asking for it. As for our plans, well, I'm going to completely duck your question. But I would be surprised if you were not hearing from us by early summer. We intend to move very quickly.

Bob Young interview, Linux Journal, 1999:

What can we expect to see from Red Hat in the future?
Well, hopefully more and more of the same. We think there are huge opportunities to do very big projects in an open-source model. We really like what the guys at AbiSource are doing with their products. We think the guys at Cygnus are going to be doing very clever projects in the open-source space. Of course, we are going to be doing even more projects along these lines.

The enthusiasm you see here at the [1999 Linux Expo] has little to do with any product, and everything to do with, for the first time, the user getting real control over the technology they are using. That's the one unique benefit we all deliver to the marketplace. We intend to do more of that and do it better as we generate the resources that enable us to do it. If the customers like it, we'll generate the resources--we're a very customer-focused company. Go talk to some attendees and find out what they want us to do, and that's probably what we are going to do!

Mark Ewing interview, CNET, September 1999:

What do you think of the theory that Linux has the potential to be as influential as the Internet was for stock market issues?
I think there's a lot of correlation between the Internet and Linux. Open source and open, common standards are what helped drive this highly decentralized development model of both Linux and the Internet. That let it be decentralized but at the same time maintain a coherency. That's sort of the magic mix. The Internet seems to have done that, and Linux seems to have done that.
Have you tried to hire Linus Torvalds onto your staff?
Not recently, no. A long time ago, I'm guessing about three years ago... [Red Hat CEO] Bob [Young] and I...talked to him about it. One, for us, so we could say we had Linus on our staff, and two, so he could devote all his time to Linux. But Linus has always made the right decisions.

His leadership of Linux development can't be questioned. He decided he didn't want to align himself with any company, no matter how much independence he would have. At the same time, he's a very smart guy, and he wanted to exercise his mind outside of doing pure Linux development. At Transmeta he does things other than just Linux and gets exposed to new challenges.

Mark Ewing interview, Salon, October 1999:

How did all of this get started?
When I started Red Hat I wasn't really meaning to do anything with Linux. I was working on a rapid application development program that was going to run on Unix, but I didn't have any money to buy a Unix workstation at the time—they cost something like $10,000. Then I happened to run across Linux, which was brand new at the time, and would run on my home PC, so I used that instead.

Over the next few months and early summer I discovered that I wasn't spending any time working on my project, I was spending all my time fixing Linux and getting it updated and making it easier for me to use. I eventually came to the realization that what I really ought to do was work on putting together a better Linux distribution. So that's what I did. I dropped my other project and started doing what I had been doing as a business.

Alan Cox interview, Linux Journal, June 2000:

How do you feel about Linux's current popularity? Would you have preferred it stayed contained in the hacker community? Would it have survived on the fringes?
It was a bit of a surprise. On my first trip to Red Hat, they had about six people, and the new boy was this Donnie Barnes guy. Now they are heading for five hundred.

Linux would have survived on the fringes, I think. There has always been a market for things people can actually play with and tune.

Would it have survived without the IPOs and financial backing? What impact has the commercialization of Linux had? How do you feel about Linux profiteering and the people who make millions off of other people's volunteered efforts?
I'm working for a vendor. I get regular mail from people trying to find Linux-aware folks to hire. I think those who wrote code for fun have plenty of opportunity to reap rewards. Even when I wasn't working for Red Hat, it didn't bother me. I wrote it for fun, and the fact that people found it useful was a greater reward than money. We've made it possible to put computers into places that could never have afforded Microsoft products.

Michael Tiemann, Linuxquestions.org, June 2000:

What was your first introduction to Linux? What was the reason behind you using Linux and was anyone in particular responsible for turning you on to Linux?
My first introduction was via Adam Richter, creator of the Yggdrasil distribution. He called me up and took me to lunch one day, mainly to try to understand whether what I'd learned at Cygnus (the world's first company to commercialize free software) could be applied to the business he was thinking about starting. I didn't think so: we were selling support contracts for $35,000 to more than $1M per year, and he wanted to sell CDs for $99 (or perhaps even less). The two models could not have been more different.

I forgot about Linux until I got a call from Larry McVoy, telling me that there was this software company in North Carolina (software company in North Carolina!?) that had about 15 people and was growing by leaps and bounds. It was committed to free software, and Cygnus should look at acquiring it. While I was not that excited about Yggdrasil, I did become excited about Red Hat. We held a board meeting to discuss spending 10% of our equity in 1995 to acquire Red Hat but I could not convince the two other co-founders to make an offer. Four years later, Red Hat acquired Cygnus with 10% of their equity. Sigh.