Where have all the MacBooks gone at Linux conferences?

The days of open source people using MacBooks and running Mac OS seem to be ending

linux conference 2013 opening

Back in 2007, I went to O’Reilly Open Source Conference (OSCON). That particular year Canonical had a mini-summit, which happened in the two days before OSCON, called Ubuntu Live.

I honestly don't remember much about any of the sessions I attended all those years ago. But one memory stands out like a spotlight pointed straight at my face: almost every single laptop I saw in use at Ubuntu Live was a MacBook.

Nearly every single one. Row after row of little glowing Apple logos filling every conference room. And this was at Ubuntu's first big conference—a conference filled to the brim with Linux (and Ubuntu) developers and power users.

We're not talking Apple hardware running Linux, either. I made a point of asking people what they were running (or just glancing at the screens as I walked by). Were a few running Linux? Yes. A few. But the majority were running Mac OS X. The vast majority. 

This phenomenon isn't unique to this one year of Ubuntu Live. Anyone who's been to a Linux or open source (or web developer) conference in the last decade has witnessed the army of open source people who are actually just running Mac OS.

But this year something is different.

I recently returned from LinuxFest Northwest. One of the most noteworthy things from that event? I saw only one Mac laptop in use by the attendees of the event. One. And, you know what? It wasn't running Mac OS. It was running Linux.

Earlier this year, I attended Southern California Linux Expo (SCALE). Similar situation there. I saw a good handful of Apple logos glowing here and there, but only a handful. Most laptops seemed to be happily running Linux of one flavor or another.

In fact, on the Friday of SCALE, I had the opportunity to be the evening entertainment (along with a few others I do a podcast I do with). During the show, one of my co-hosts brought along his MacBook to play a few videos and whatnot. That MacBook failed at playing audio rather spectacularly, leading to a 15-plus minute, live-in-front-of-700 people, trouble-shooting session with a Mac OS X desktop projected onto a huge screen behind us.

The Linux-powered audience, along with myself and the rest of the people involved in the show, had quite a lot of fun at my poor Mac-using friend's expense. Don't worry; it was good-natured. Nobody was tarred and feathered.

In past years, the vast ocean of Apple logos really undercut any statement of “Linux is great.” People would, inevitably, retort with, “Then why are all the 'Linux People' using Macs?” Admittedly, that was a great point and has been a source of shame for many of us for a very long time.

But now things are different. The Apple logos are (mostly) gone from Linux conferences. This may be an unscientific observation from one person attending a few conferences in North America. Regardless, it's a great feeling.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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