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Linux Fest Northwest makes its mark

May 1, 2012 1 comment

Those of us who have been to Linux shows, or especially have worked Linux shows, in the past know the drill. It’s something out of “Field of Dreams.” If you build it — the “it” here being a Linux event — they will come, and they will all seem to come right at Saturday morning at 9 sharp when the show officially starts.

They did just that at Linux Fest Northwest. Past its first decade of operation, LFNW has established itself as the premiere Linux event in the region and, as I’ve mentioned before, next to the Southern California Linux Expo, it’s the best show on the West Coast. For two days, geeks in the Northwest get to listen to top-notch presenters — as well as people like me — and visit exhibits from distros, software and hardware makers.

The Bellingham Linux Users Group and volunteers from other open source user groups in the area never fail to put on a great expo, and I think I speak for many attendees when I say that I’m deeply grateful for their efforts. About 1,200 people attended LFNW on the campus of Bellingham Technical College over the weekend. Thanks, LFNW folks.

Here’s a look at the weekend:

Not another distro . . .: Bill Smith and his wife Portia staffed the CrunchBang booth with me, and again my thanks go out to them for the help. Visitors to the booth ranged from those who knew what CrunchBang was to those who whined, “Not another distro . . .” To which I replied far too often, “Yes, another distro. This one is Debian with the OpenBox window manager,” before explaining the advantages of CrunchBang. “There’s a digital Darwinism at play here, with the good distros gathering a strong community and thriving, and others . . . not so much.” There were about 150 pieces of media burned — CDs and DVDs — all of which went out the door with prospective users. I, of course, will sit in the corner with the pointy hat because, truth be told, I forgot the banner and the “success kid” stickers made up for LFNW, but we’ll use ‘em next year.

Hello, I’m Greg DeKoenigsberg: The printed program had it right, as did the Web site. But the large poster on the wall on the Haskell classroom building on Saturday morning had Greg’s presentation on the schedule where I was giving the Intro to CrunchBang talk. With LFNW’s permission, Greg and I had switched presentation times more than a week prior to the event, since he was getting in late. But the poster outside the wall had the old schedule. Try as I might — which, of course, was not very hard — I could not convince the folks that I was the Eucalyptus VP. After an announcement that if you were there for Greg’s talk, it would be tomorrow, only a couple of people bailed out. As for my talk, it went as well as my talks usually go — no one was injured and law enforcement officials were nowhere to be found — and Scott Dowdle videotaped it, so as soon as that gets posted, I’ll let you know.

The (two) big thing(s): The big thing at Linux Fest Northwest — not including OpenSUSE rep Bryen Yunashko’s hat — was the Pogo Linux’s booth, which featured a full-fledged, sit-behind-the-wheel racing game with three large-screen monitors, where drivers navigated a course and prizes were given for the fastest laps. No, my racing days are far behind me, but from what I was told by someone who raced cars and turned the second fastest lap on Saturday, it was very realistic. Another big thing — bigger to the Android crowd, apparently, and arguably just as fast as the racing game — was the ZaReason tablet, which many folks tried out at our booth (ZaReason shared the CrunchBang booth at LFNW). Keep an eye on that, since this full-fledged Android tablet will be coming out very soon.

Hands across the water: It was a grand experiment, though operator error by yours truly may have kept it from being a huge success. But during the CrunchBang Birds of a Feather meetup on Sunday morning, we used a Google+ Hangout to raise CrunchBang lead developer Philip Newborough. Sort of. Despite getting dropped a couple of times — once because I hit the wrong key — we got to talk about the show, about what’s coming up for CrunchBang and things along those lines, and it was very informative for those in attendance. Thanks, Philip, and Rebecca Newborough as well, who in her capacity as the CrunchBang Community Leader also participated from the Lincoln side of things.

Bon mots: I’m still apologizing to Deb Nicholson for forgetting her surname in introducing her to Philip Newborough at the BoF on Sunday morning. You know you work with someone in FOSS circles for years and something like this happens . . . . A shout-out goes to Eric Craw, a new CrunchBang user from Washington who converted at Linux Fest Northwest. Not only did he start using CrunchBang, but he already started contributing code back to the project, showing that this is what FOSS is all about . . . . David Whitman of Hacker Public Radio gave me a few minutes of interview time at the end of Linux Fest Northwest, so all that thumping and loading in the background may or may not be audible once the interview is broadcast . . . . I drove 962 miles each way to attend LFNW, but this show is so great that I would have walked 962 miles to get to Bellingham. Again, kudos to the LFNW crew.

Start rumors: In my capacity as publicity chair for the Southern California Linux Expo, I finally got to sit down with my good friends Warren Sanders and Scott Dowdle, and two folks from the Big Sky Country that I hadn’t met — Rocky Mountain College’s Andrew Niemantsverdreit and Gary Bummer, who is Scott’s colleague at Montana State University — and the five of us discussed bringing an event to their area. So be on the lookout for Montana Linux Fest, or something like it, in 2013.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and develops business software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

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Notes on Linux Fest Northwest

April 30, 2012 10 comments

I’m currently on the road in Oregon, heading back to the cozy confines of the redwoods of Felton, but I wanted to get a couple of notes down before posting a more comprehensive blog item at home about Linux Fest Northwest which was, in a word, outstanding.

First things first: I would venture to guess that there were more than 1,000 folks who showed up to the event, and I’ll try to dig up a more accurate number later. In fact, we had folks checking out the CrunchBang table before we had even set up around 9ish on Saturday morning. While the show, of course, had its Saturday morning tsunami of humanity followed by a more reasonable and slow-paced Sunday, it was never lacking the electricity that Linux expos usually transmit during the course of the weekend. Carl Symons and the rest of the crew at LFNW put on a great show, period.

The CrunchBang table: Bill Smith and his wife Portia did outstanding work staffing the booth, and my thanks go out to them for the help. It should be noted that Bill’s attire — a Tux vest — was great, and Portia had #! painted onto her nails. Needless to say, they were ready for the show. Many visitors to the table already knew what CrunchBang is, and some were, “What’s CrunchBang?” We gave away about 100 pieces of media and displayed on my old ThinkPad T30 and a newer ZaReason Alto 3880 how CrunchBang works across a wide range of computer hardware.

The ZaReason tablet: A last-minute request by computer-maker ZaReason had me splitting the table between CrunchBang and ZaReason, and one of the things that drew attention and cause some buzz is the tablet that ZaReason will be coming out with soon. We had one of them in the booth, and many folks thought it was pretty cool, though one person said it looked too much like an iPad (and I don’t believe that was a compliment).

Friends old and new: Seeing old friends and making new ones is one of the great things about the shows. Great as always to see Rikki Endsley, Robyn Bergeron, Deb Nicholson, Jeff Sandys, Greg DeKoenigsberg and others whose names I’ll remember between Springfield and Felton and try not to kick myself for forgetting while driving. A special shout out goes to Eric Craw, a new CrunchBang user who installed it after hearing my presentation on Saturday and immediately did some programming to submit to the distro.

I’ll get into more of the nuts-and-bolts of the show in the next blog item when I return home, like getting to start my presentation on Saturday morning with “Hello, I’m Greg DeKoenigsberg” (in my best Johnny Cash) and more details on my talk and the hands-across-the-water CrunchBang Birds of a Feather meetup. But it’s about time to get back on Interstate 5 and head south.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and develops business software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

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Ready for Linux Fest Northwest

April 24, 2012 Comments off

The disks are burned, the stickers are being printed up, and the presentation still needs tweaking, but for all intents and purposes I’m ready for Linux Fest Northwest, which takes place this weekend at Bellingham Technical College.

Next to the Southern California Linux Expo — which will turn it up to 11 at SCALE 11X in February 2013* — Linux Fest Northwest is the best show on the West Coast. Collectively and in choral harmony, I can hear all of you saying, “What about OSCON?” True, OSCON is the biggest of the West Coast shows, bringing out all the big guns, both in FOSS personalities as well as in software and hardware. There are many excellent presentations offered every year at OSCON, however with the show growing to the commercial entity that it has become, there’s a slickness to it that has a tendency to leave many visitors adrift in a vast sea of marketing.

Not so Linux Fest Northwest: It’s in its 11th year in Bellingham, Washington — essentially Microsoft’s backyard — and from the ground up it an all-community affair, completely run with a volunteer staff that puts on an outstanding show on what seems to be the Pacific Northwest’s best weekend of weather. The classrooms at Bellingham Technical College are ideal for presentations and the expo floor is big enough to be interesting but small enough not to be too overwhelming.

I’ll be presenting on Saturday morning — Greg DeKoenigsberg and I switched times so he could give his presentation on Sunday — on “An Intro to CrunchBang” in Haskell 103. Be there or be square. Also there’s a CrunchBang Birds of a Feather meetup on Sunday morning as well. The CrunchBang booth — which will also feature some ZaReason hardware — will be in the center of the room diagonally across from where the raffle will take place.

So if you’re in the Pacific Northwest, you should head over to Linux Fest Northwest. You can sign up at the LFNW link above (it’s free, but you have to sign up for a badge), and head over to the show.

See you there.

*Truth in advertising: I have a vested interest in SCALE since I’m the publicity chair. But even if I wasn’t, I’d still think SCALE is the best show on the West Coast. Frankly, I think it’s the best show in the hemisphere and I’m beyond proud to be a part of it.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and develops business software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions  in the small business and home office environment.)

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A tale of two fests

April 3, 2012 3 comments

There seems to be a lot of traffic on social media around some of the Linux events later in the year. Clearly, there’s no harm in getting a head start on things, but it’s probably a good idea to keep our eyes on what’s immediately in front of us.

There’s one coming up next weekend: Indiana LinuxFest in Indianapolis next weekend (meaning April 13-15, for those of you keeping score at home). ILF is in its second year, and this year it staged what I thought is a coup that they got Debian founder Ian Murdock to be one of the keynoters; the other, of course, is no slouch either: Amber Graner of Linaro. Add that to the usual suspects — exhibitors, a wide range of talks at various levels and some certification exams — and you have the recipe for a growing Linux show in the Hoosier state.

If you’re within a day’s ground travel (let alone a day’s air travel), ILF is a good show to attend.

Later this month, Linux Fest Northwest — next to SCALE, my favorite expo in North America — takes place in Bellingham, Wash., literally in Microsoft’s backyard. LFNW is part of the West Coast’s “triple crown” in Linux events, the others being the Southern California Linux Expo at the beginning of the year and OSCON in the summer, and now in its 11th year, it has been a testament to how community-based FOSS events can flourish. Plus, the Pacific Northwest is fantastic in April.

Get to either, or both, if you can.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and develops business software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

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In a festive mood

March 10, 2011 1 comment

Linuxfest Northwest 2011 - April 30th-May 1st I’ll be there. You should be there, too. As well as at the other events mentioned below — go to a Linux fest at a location near you.

If it’s Thursday morning and it’s 8ish in the morning, it must be The White Raven, home of Larry’s (not me) Famous Chai, and at 8ish, it gives me another chance to blog before taking on the rest of the Redwood Digital world at 9ish

Someone asked me yesterday, “Hey, Larry the Free Software Guy — Why are you posting a link to Linux Fest Northwest on your blog when it’s a few months away? What about those events that are coming up?”

That’s a good question that deserves a good answer, and hopefully this will suffice, so bear with me for a short introduction.

Leading up to the Southern California Linux Expo SCALE 9X, I had a link and a logo for that show. As far as community-run expos go, SCALE is probably the best one of the year, and not only that, SCALE rivals the O’Reilly-run OSCON as perhaps the best show of the year. Without a doubt, SCALE is certainly the better value due to the cost to attend. For a crew of volunteers to put on a highly professional show like SCALE is a testament to the power of community

[Two things: A truth in advertising moment -- I am a SCALE staffer, a co-chair of the publicity committee, but even if I wasn't somewhat partial to SCALE for that reason, it's still an outstanding show and a huge credit to those who put in the work to make it happen, and happen successfully year in and year out. Secondly, OSCON is an outstanding show and O'Reilly's staff does an outstanding job in putting on this expo as well, and my preference to SCALE reflects the high quality of the SoCal show and does not reflect any shortcoming by the folks who put on OSCON, as blog items in the past have attested to how much I like going to Portland in July.]

So the questioner is right — there are two shows coming up that deserve special mention, as well as your attendance if you’re within walking/bus/train/driving/flying distance of them.

Back home again in Indiana, the Indiana Linux Fest, kicks off its inaugural event. According to its site, ILF “is a community F/OSS conference, which is showcasing the best the community has to offer in the way of Free and Open Source Software, Open Hardware, and Free Culture. We are also highlighting the best and brightest from all of these communities from the hobbyist to professional level.” ILF is being held March 25-27 at the Wyndam Indianapolis West, and it’s free.

Texas Linux Fest is April 2 in Austin. In its second year, TXLF made the excellent call in making Ken Starks its keynoter this year. With the HeliOS Project in Austin, Ken’s been doing great things and it’s about time he’s getting the recognition in FOSS circles for walking the walk while talking the talk in getting Linux boxes into the hands of people to use — in the HeliOS Project’s case, it’s underprivileged kids.

Both shows have outstanding lineups of speakers and sessions, and frankly I wish I could make both of them. It’s almost worth playing hooky and going to Austin, just to heckle Ken from the cheap seats; don’t worry, Ken, I’ll resist the temptation.

But it’s worth your while to make the trip to either of these shows, depending on which is more geographically expedient for you. Make the reservation now.

Meanwhile, at the end of April, you can find me at Linux Fest Northwest. If you’re making that one, I will surely see you there.

[FSF Associate Member] (Fedora ambassador Larry Cafiero runs Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, and is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation. He is also one of the founders of the Lindependence Project.)
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Looking back, looking ahead

December 29, 2010 3 comments

Now that I have finally disengaged myself from the what is commercially and socially — and for some, spiritually (and God bless you, every one) — known as “the holiday season,” I have been giving a lot of thought to how good a year 2010 was, the Sun purchase by Oracle and the Novell deal notwithstanding, and what 2011 has to offer.

It looks like 2011 will be the year of the Linux deskt . . . I’m sorry, what? Oh. Well, never mind. Let’s skip that one

Looking back at 2010, most recently we had both Russia and Cuba going to FOSS, which must prove Steve Ballmer right about Linux being Communist. After all, I think a young Linus Torvalds was able to see Russia from his house a lot better than Sarah Palin could from Wasilla. Meanwhile, Red Hat — oh, what’s in a name anyway, comrade? — became poised to be the first billion-dollar Linux company and stats show that they are gaining market share in the corporate server world. Go, Shadowman! And there’s that little green space cadet Android making gains in the various markets where it now works. So despite an Apple/Microsoft shell company buying Novell and the other — and more evil — Larry essentially killing open source at what was once the Camelot-esque Sun, 2010 was a good year.

Of course, 2010 would not be complete without the introduction of Chux, the Linux distro developed by Chuck Norris — A Linux designed by Chuck Norris would require no backups, as it would be too scared of Chuck to fail, and the CPUs run faster to get away from Chuck Norris. You don’t boot it, it boots you. Go here to take a look here.

What would I like to see in 2011? Glad you asked. What would be nice would be:

Digital pundits not saying that 2011 is the year of the Linux desktop, because it’s won’t be. And that’s OK. Believe me, until this year when the San Francisco Giants won the World Series, I know the “wait-’til-next-year” drill very well. The year of the Linux desktop will come someday — as it should — but with all the advances Linux is making in server and smaller formats — yes, I’m looking at you, Android — we don’t have to put all our eggs in that basket to determine Linux a success. We don’t have to thump our proverbial chests and say “this year . . . the desktop,” and then when the end of the year rolls around and it isn’t, there’s not a whole lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth. To say nothing of garment-rending . . . . The fact of the matter is that Linux and FOSS are as healthy as they have ever been, Novell and Sun sale notwithstanding.


Go to the show: Linux shows and expos are popping up all over, so you really have no excuse in 2011 not to go to one. The established ones, like the Southern California Linux Expo (SCALE 9X this year) and OSCON, are now being joined by a whole host of other events throughout North America. Most recently, Indiana gets its own Linux festival in March, aptly titled the Indiana Linux Fest. It joins, in order of appearance (off the top of my head — and forgive me if I forget your expo), SCALE, Linux Fest Northwest, COSSFest in Calgary, Texas Linux Fest, Southeast Linux Fest (in the GNU South), OSCON, Ohio Linux Fest, and Utah Open Source Conference. You’ll find me at SCALE, Linux Fest Northwest, COSSFest (hopefully — if they let me out of the country), OSCON and Utah Open Source Conference on an annual basis.

Oh, and one more thing: Lindependence 2011 will be held in early July, around Independence Day, in Felton, California — where Lindependence started a couple of years ago.

Last, but certainly not least:

Large distros carrying their weight in the FOSS realm: First it was the GNOME study by David Neary that had Red Hat, Novell and others carrying the developmental mail for GNOME — Red Hat and Novell with 10-plus percent each — while Canonical came in at, wait for it, 1.03 percent. Fine. That’s been hashed out already both on these pages and elsewhere. But the Linux Foundation released its annual report on Linux kernel development late in the year — go ahead and get the PDF file here — and while you’re at it, you might want to do a search for Canonical to see how often it shows up. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t. And I’m just going to leave it at that, hoping that Canonical and/or Ubuntu shows up on next year’s report.

Let’s all have a great 2011.

[FSF Associate Member] (Fedora ambassador Larry Cafiero runs Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, and is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)
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I’m baaaaaaaaack

April 30, 2010 1 comment

As I’ve said ad nauseum — Latin for “if he says that one more time, I’m going to throw up” — I only write things when I have something to say. What I have to say today is simple — I’m back.

Going through the last few months of observations, I have only this to offer:

  • Tragically, I missed LFNW: Next to the Southern California Linux Expo, Linux Fest Northwest is probably my favorite event of the year, in an area that’s definitely one of my favorite places on the planet. Heck, on their Web site leading up to the event last weekend, my head was in one of the revolving pictures — the one just after John “Mad Dog” Hall. Yes, incidentally, that is my better side. From what I am told, the event was a success. Next year, guys.
  • What’s in a name? Can I get a show of hands of folks who find the “Linux” and “GNU/Linux” naming debate as counterproductive to FOSS, in general, and to the FSF, in particular, as I do? Ah, I thought so. As an aside, Richard Stallman will be speaking at Stanford today, and if you have a chance, you should go. However, an invitation to have him come to Felton to speak at the Felton Linux User Group the following day turned into an “agreement to disagree” (at least on my part) on whether the simple term “Linux” implies that the history of Free Software starts in 1991 and that “LUG” doesn’t give credit where credit is due. Yet, I would be hard pressed to find a regular GNU/Linux user who doesn’t know GNU’s history and it’s relationship to the Linux kernel, but Stallman disagrees. But rather than speak to our group — a group which, per capita, probably own more “Free Software, Free Society” books and T-shirts than any other LUG — because in his estimation we are not “GNU-friendly” enough, San Francisco LUG posts on its mailing list an announcement that he’ll be speaking at Wordcamp in San Francisco on Saturday. And that’s fine — he can reach more people and he should be where he can get wider attention — but take a look at those less-than-GNU-friendly sponsors on the site! (Go ahead, I’ll wait).
  • So that’s what all the hubbub is about: I downloaded Ubuntu 10.04 and put it through its paces on the laptop and desktop (the Live CD only), and yep, the buttons on the left are, at first, a tad annoying and something to get used to. However, that’s minor, compared to the release itself, which is stellar. Not only this, there was an 11th hour bug where dual-booters couldn’t boot into anything other than Ubuntu — for dual-boots with Windows, I’d consider this a feature — and that was corrected before the version was released into the wild. Good work, Ubunteros.
  • [FSF Associate Member](Fedora ambassador Larry Cafiero runs Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, and is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)
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