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April 26th, 2015

A Rousing Start for LinuxFest Northwest

You were warned: I wrote on Wednesday that it would be a good idea to get your badges at the Hampton Inn at game night on Friday, in order to avoid the line on Saturday morning at registration.

So pity those who didn’t take the advice and had to wait in what was the historically longest line in LinuxFest Northwest history — out the door and around the building — on Saturday morning awaiting their badges. Conversely, the length of the time to wait was minimal, thanks to quick work by the LFNW staff.

LinuxFest Northwest logo

When you see the totem at Bellingham Technical College, you know you’re in the right place.

With around 2,000 registrants, this year’s LFNW seems to be the largest in its history. This not only bodes well for the widespread popularity and acceptance of FOSS in general, but it also bodes well for one of the longest-running FOSS shows here in the Pacific Northwest.

Despite the increase in attendees this year — early LFNW-goers were greeted with four- and five-deep crowds in front of some booths — it’s clear that LFNW has not lost its most charming quality: The show is large enough to draw the best speakers in the country and best projects as exhibitors, while not losing its aura of a “community” show rather than one driven by “corporate interests.”

Despite Microsoft’s presence, and I’ll get to that later.

Here are some bon mots, cheap shots and random thoughts from LFNW’s first day:

Location, location, location: As of late, the Fedora Project has taken its musical show on the road, with the booth having musical instruments for attendees to play. From time to time, you can hear a wide range of musical skills trying out the instruments and software at the booth. Across the aisle at the openSUSE booth, two green lawn chairs are set up facing outward, either by design or by happenstance, to watch the performances across the way — perhaps to enjoy the music or to laugh at the musicians, and possibly both.

Passing the test: Rackspace has an interesting way of “thinning the herd” when it comes to choosing those they hire. The booth here has a test they give — all command-line driven — and if you can navigate the waters with some basic, yet not-entirely-rookie, commands and tasks within ten minutes, you’re in. This captain sunk his ship well before the proverbial finish line, and it’s back to school for me.

Rookie mistake: I’m not naming names here, nor elsewhere and not ever, but a couple of exhibitors were out of swag within two hours. Of course, the hallmark of the success of a show can be measured in how quickly exhibitors run out of swag, and the common thread binding these two swagless exhibitors was the sentiment, “We weren’t expecting such a huge turnout.” Somewhere, LFNW organizers are smiling quietly to themselves…

Happy birthday, Debian: Over the weekend, Debian 8.0 Jessie was released and new LFNW exhibitor Microsoft hosted a party on Saturday night to celebrate it. This is part of the so-called “love” Microsoft is supposed to be showing to Linux and FOSS; a “love” that is clearly selective and arguably one-sided, if it exists as all. My guess is that either the low-guy on the marketing totem pole in Redmond — or someone in deep trouble — was sent to Bellingham to face the somewhat skeptical LFNW attendees, in following some of the conversations at the booth.

Also, I didn’t have the chance to ask the question — thanks, Jon “maddog” Hall for the suggestion — regarding “when Microsoft will disclose to the free and open source community what patents they think we are violating in the Android operating system (and presumably in the Linux kernel), rather than just going to Android licensees and extracting money out of them.” My guess is that the PR flack at the booth couldn’t answer that, but we’ll see on Sunday.

Long story short: If Microsoft thinks they can just “market” their way into the hearts and minds of FOSS folks, they are woefully — and tragically — mistaken. They need to show us what they’ll do, not tell us, and so far nothing has really been forthcoming in the demonstration department.

But regardless, welcome to Debian 8.0 Jessie anyway (and, interestingly, last night “Toy Story” was on cable last night, when I returned to the hotel).

Face time with Jupiter Broadcasting: For years I have spoken with, and sometimes sparred with, Matt Hartley on-line and in emails, and I’ve always been a fan of his shows on Jupiter Broadcasting (same goes for Chris Fisher on Sunday mornings). But for the first time, I had a chance to sit down and speak with Matt, along with Noah Chelliah and the rest of the world, during a webcast at the Jupiter Broadcasting booth where the three of us talked about LFNW, SCALE and FOSS in general. We were in agreement on this particular item: LFNW is an outstanding show, and despite the fact that I work for THE best show in North America (namely SCALE), LFNW is my favorite show to attend. There. I said it — on a broadcast. So, Matt and Noah, thanks for having me, this tongue-tied FOSS Force correspondent, on your show. You should bring your booth south to SCALE next February.

Seeing old friends: When working shows — whether in a booth or behind the scenes — there’s not much time to catch up with old friends. One of the great things about being essentially unattached at LFNW this year (and providing commentary and reports for FOSS Force is clearly not a burden, to say the least) is that I can actually take time with those who I either see all the time and don’t have time to talk to, or take time with those who I never see until shows roll around.

Waiting five-deep at the BSD booth to talk to Dru Lavigne — a first-time LFNW attendee this year, surprisingly — was well worth the wait, and for once we said more than just passing “hellos.” Same for the “Montana gang” — Montana Linux’s Scott Dowdle and Warren Sanders brought a few others from Big Sky country for their annual visit to Bellingham (by car, not by “wagon train,” as Warren points out to those who ask, “So, why aren’t you guys wearing cowboy hats?”).

It’s hard to say who is following who here, but O’Reilly’s Joshua Simmons and I seem to be popping up in the same venue everywhere we go — not a complaint by any stretch of the imagination, and O’Reilly is always well-represented everywhere Joshua goes. Deb Nicholson is always eloquent, whether it’s in presentation or in person, and one could successfully argue that a FOSS show is not complete without her presence. Last, but certainly not least, FOSS raconteur Bryan Lunduke, who brings his wit and wisdom to LinuxFest Northwest, sans shower from Bad Voltage at SCALE, to talk about how we missed the year of the desktop (that was last year, folks).

Day two is upcoming. Watch this space.

Larry Cafiero, a.k.a. Larry the Free Software Guy, is a journalist and a Free/Open Source Software advocate. He is involved in several FOSS projects and serves as the publicity chair for the Southern California Linux Expo. Follow him on Twitter: @lcafiero

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