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UK Linux show host denies Debian stand space

'If we give one non-profit body a free stand, everyone will want one,' says organiser

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British Linux users have slammed IT Events, organiser of the UK's upcoming Linux Expo 2000 show, for refusing to allow Debian to exhibit at the show, despite claiming that the exhibition represents all the major Linux distributions. "Linux Expo 2000 claims to have all the major players - without Debian, it doesn't," said one UK Linux supporter in an email to The Register. "It seems a pity that IT Events should be so out of tune with the whole nature of Linux and free software that it should take such a mean attitude." And that's certainly the way it looks. IT Events' problem with Debian is that it won't cough up for a stand. Hardly surprising, since Debian is a non-profit voluntary organisation. From IT Events' perspective, however, no dough means no show. IT Events is, after all, a commercial organisation, and the idea of giving away valuable stand space goes very much against the grain. Indeed, there are few, if any, show organisers who would take a different attitude. Some Linux proponents have also criticised IT Events for charging more for stand space this year, which is also freezing out small Linux companies. That's fair enough, since these are themselves businesses - the issue here is really IT Events' attitude to non-profit organisations. While Debian did make an appearance at last year's show, that was simply because an unnamed exhibitor pulled out at the last minute and, under the terms of its contract, it had to pay for the stand in any case. That handily provided a space for Debian, which would not have got in otherwise. "That was a very pleasant surprise for us," Debian leader Wichert Akkerman told The Register. "The Debian booth last year was one of the most popular booths... however, unless something changed since last week, we aren't exhibiting and no stand has been donated." IT Events' Jonathon Heastie, the organiser of Linux Expo 2000, confirmed that so far, no stand space was available for Debian, and that this did to a degree sit at odds with the company's claim that the show would feature all the major Linux distributions. However, unless there's a repeat of last year's scenario, Debian isn't likely to have much luck. "We can't give stands away for free, because then everyone will want one," Heastie told The Register. For a company that has primarily focused its efforts on the highly commercial Windows NT market, that attitude isn't surprising. IT Events' management, however, has yet to figure that the Linux world, with its mix of commercial and non-profit work, is very different - something that Heastie tacitly admitted himself. "I'm having a meeting today [with IT Events' management] to discuss this issue," he said. Heastie also held out the prospect that new approaches will be found to provide space for Linux's non-profit organisations next year. That, however, may come too late for Linux users fed up with what seems like corporate confusion or - worse - indifference to the spirit of community so central to the open source world. ® The Register is a Debian user. Linux Expo 2000 takes place on 1 and 2 June at London's Olympia.

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