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Atlanta Meets Open Source at ‘Great Wide Open’

There’s good news and bad news on the Linux and open source conference scene in the deep south.

First the bad news. For the first time since it started six years ago, there’ll be no POSSCON in Columbia, South Carolina this year. For six years, POSSCON has been an annual open source conference hosted by IT-oLogy, the folks behind All Things Open, the Raleigh, North Carolina based conference which made its debut in October. Not to worry, however, as I’ve been assured by Todd Lewis, Executive Director of IT-oLogy in Columbia, that POSSCON will return in 2015.

The good news is that in lieu of POSSCON, IT-oLogy is throwing what promises to be a big shindig of an enterprise level open source conference in Atlanta. Called Great Wide Open, the conference is less than a month away, scheduled to get cranked-up on April 2nd and 3rd at the 200 Peachtree Special Events & Conference Center in downtown Atlanta.

Like All Things Open, which is now an annual event, Great Wide Open is aimed at those who earn their living by plying their trades in the tech sector. In other words, don’t expect any workshops or presentations on “How to Setup Ubuntu for Grandma” here. However, this doesn’t mean there’ll be nothing for people who mainly use Linux and open source at home. Indeed, all FOSS supporters should look into enterprise events like this because what happens in the enterprise often eventually ends up on the desktop, either as improvements/additions to Linux or as new open source applications.

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend Great Wide Open. However, I’ve put together a list of the workshops and presentations that would be on my list if I could go just to give those of you who don’t collect a paycheck from working in tech an idea of what’s there for you, the everyday Linux user.

An Enterprise Open Source Strategy
“You’re using open source, whether you realize it or not…you better have a strategy”

Wednesday 10:15 AM
Shawn Briscoe

Great Wide Open - Briscoe

Shawn Briscoe, Director of Strategic Services, Black Duck Software

As Director of Strategic Services for Black Duck Software, Briscoe helps clients use open source to realize business and technology goals. Black Duck is an open source company which, among other things, maintains a public directory of open source software as well as a compresensive searchable index containing over ten billion lines of open source code.

Why I would attend: Although I don’t earn my living making zeros and ones or pushing open source projects, I do use open source extensively in my small business. From the title of this presentation, I’m sure I would pick up a tip or two I could use to help with our open source “strategy,” if we actually have such a thing.

Also recommended: At the same time that Briscoe will be giving her presentation, Jason Hibbets, director of OpenSource.com for Red Hat, will be giving a workshop titled “Open Source All the Cities.” The only reason this presentation doesn’t top my list for this hour is because I’ve already seen Hibbets give this presentation, last year at All Things Open. I would especially recommend this for anyone who believes that the philosophy behind open source can encompass much more than software and computer tech. Hibbets is a visionary in geek’s clothing.

Open Source: From Community to Company
“Lessons learned from the incredibly popular open source Snort project”

Wednesday 11:15 AM
Joel Esler

Great Wide Open - Esler

Joel Esler, Open Source Manager and Intelligence Lead, Sourcefire

Joel Esler is Open Source Manager and Intelligence Lead in the Vulnerability Research Team at Sourcefire, a security firm acquired by Cisco in July of last year. He is responsible for the Snort, ClamAV, Razorback, and Daemonlogger projects, which are all parts of the Sourcefire security arsenal. Snort is a FOSS network intrusion prevention system licensed under the GPL, with a commercial license also available.

Why I would attend: Again, I run a small business. Each day we conduct credit card transactions, both online and for orders placed with us via telephone. In addition, we operate a web server for several of our sites as well as a few third party sites we host. In this age or Target breaches and NSA shenanagans, I figure we can’t know too much about security. Because this presentation is being offered on GWO’s “business track,” I figure it won’t necessarily be over my head.

Also recommended: Chris Clark with SparkFun Electronics will be giving his presentation on open source hardware at the same time. This was another presentation I caught in October at All Things Open. In fact, this was a presentation I wasn’t expecting to like but which ended-up being one of my favorites. For more, read the article I wrote on Clark in January.

The Open Source Survival Guide for Women

Wednesday 2:30 PM
Coraline Ehmke

Coraline Ehmke, co-founder of LGBTech.org

Coraline Ehmke, co-founder of LGBTech.org

For twenty years, Coraline Ehmke has been developing apps for the web. Her latest project is helping Apartments.com transition from .NET to Ruby on Rails. She’s also a co-founder of LGBTech.org, where she works to promote diversity and inclusivity in the tech industry.

Why I would attend: As anyone who keeps abreast of tech news knows, women in tech don’t have it any easier than women in any other business or industry. In fact, women and minorities might even face more obsticles in computer tech than in many other fields–which I find mind boggling. Presentations such as this should be a part of every single Linux and open source conference.

My second choice: Andrew Hall, an attorney at Fenwick & West’s Silicon Valley offices specializes in free and open-source software counseling as well as IP, licensing and technical transactions. His workshop, “Profiting with Open Source,” should appeal to anyone attempting to make a living from open source.

Open vs Closed Source Mobile Development Options
“A look at cross-platform solutions”

Wednesday 3:30 PM
Pratik Patel

Great Wide Open - Pratik Patel

Pratik Patel, CTO, TripLingo

Atlanta resident Pratik Patel has a resume that’s longer than Peachtree Street and is credited for writing the first book on enterprise Java, “Java Database Programming with JDBC,” back in 1996. These days, Patel is CTO of Atlanta based TripLingo, a company that markets a pretty cool mobile app that’s designed to help international travelers navigate alien cultures and different languages while traveling abroad.

Why I would attend: Mobile is, as Briscoe County would say, “the next new thing,” and all of us techies are going to have to learn it if we don’t want to get left behind. But don’t take my word for it, ask Microsoft if you don’t believe me.

Also recommended: Yet another workshop I’ve already attended and highly recommend is Leigh Heyman’s “We the People.” In case you don’t know, Heyman is Director of New Media Technologies at the White House. Sometimes called Obama’s open source guru, he’s the person behind WhiteHouse.gov, We the People and other Drupal based White House websites and applications.

Patents, Copyrights & Trademarks
“An overview”

Wednesday 4:30 PM
Deb Nicholson

Great Wide Open - Deb Nicholson

Deb Nicholson, Community Outreach Director, Open Invention Network

Deb Nicholson is an ex-Massachusetts politico who’s now committed to the free software movement as the Community Outreach Director at Open Invention Network and the Community Manager for GNU MediaGoblin, a decentralized web platform for hosting and sharing digital media.

Why I would attend: There are myriad reasons why anyone interested in FOSS should learn as much as possible, both about patents and copyrights. Although the two are very different animals, they are both central to free software. Copyright protection is key, as all open source licenses depend on copyrights for enforcement. Patents, on the other hand, are at best roadblocks and at worst, weapons used against open source projects. Understanding both is essential to keeping FOSS healthy and alive.

Open Source
“The cyber security of the United States depends on it”

Thursday 10:30 AM
Dr. Doug Maughan

Great Wide Open - Doug Maughan

Doug Maughan, Homeland Security, Spotify / Python & Django Foundation

This guy would seem to be a card carrying spook. The kind of guy Snowden and Assange have been warning us about. He’s “the Cyber Security Division Director in the Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency (HSARPA) within the Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)”–which is quite a mouthful. He’s been with Homeland Security since 2003 and “is directing and managing the Cyber Security Research and Development activities and staff at DHS S&T”–my how those defense guys love letters.

Before Homeland Security, he worked for DARPA and the NSA. Oh yes, he’s also holds positions with the Python & Django Foundation and Spotify, which makes me glad I’m not hooked on online streaming music services.

Why I would attend: This would be a presentation I absolutely wouldn’t miss as I’m the type of person who likes to know what the other side is thinking and might be planning. Besides, Todd Lewis assures me he’s pretty entertaining. “He’s been a speaker before at POSSCON and did a really good job,” he wrote in an email. “Very eye opening for a number of reasons, but primarily because of the open source aspect of it.”

Also recommended: If the thought of being in the same room with an ex-NSA and current Homeland Security guy makes you feel a bit uneasy, I’d suggest Mark Hinkle’s talk, “Crash Course in Open Source Cloud Computing.” Like mobile, cloud computing will be an increasingly important part of our world for the foreseeable future. Hinkle is the Senior Director, Open Source Solutions, at Citrix, which he joined as a result of their acquisition of Cloud.com where he was serving as a VP.

I’d spend the rest of Thursday attending the many security workshops being offered that day. Again, in the age of gigantic security breaches, both by crooks and by the government, security is something we all should learn more about.

Alas, neither Atlanta or the Great Wide Open conference is on my agenda for this year. However, if I lived within commuting distance of the city, you’d better believe I’d be at this conference.

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Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux.

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