Ohio LinuxFest 2012 – Afterthoughts

For the first time this year I attended Ohio LinuxFest in Columbus Ohio at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. I arrived in Columbus late on Thursday night and stayed at a friends’ house in order to arrive early on Friday morning. This plan failed as we woke up and talked for a couple of hours and went out to eat for breakfast before I got around to leaving. As a result I didn’t get to OLF until ~11:30am – at which point I got signed in, looked around briefly and then went in search of food and wifi. As a result, I hung out at the North Market for an hour or so before returning to OLF after lunch and attending the rest of the Early Penguins track leading up to Jon “maddog” Hall’s “The Perfect Storm” keynote at 5pm.

Of the talks I attended I think my favorites were Beth Lynn Eicher’s talk about Computer Reach and the one immediately following it on Software Patents by Deb Nicholson. Computer Reach has an upcoming trip to Ghana where they are planning to deliver refurbished desktop computers to various villages in Ghana, running Linux with GNOME 2.x. On Sunday I had the chance to sit next to her and talk a bit more about their work during the Diversity in Open Source Workshop and gave her a stack of GNOME stickers for the desktops they’re delivering.

Deb Nicholson’s talk on Software Patents was interesting and slightly disturbing. The sheer number of software patents out there is staggering and does not bode well for the future unless something changes dramatically. What the courts do in the next couple years, both in the USA and around the world will likely have a dramatic impact on software and innovation in both the proprietary and FOSS sphere’s.

Friday closed up with Jon “maddog” Hall’s keynote on “The Perfect Storm” about linux, the desktop and freedom. It was a great speech – interesting, funny, and informative all at the same time. Hopefully he’s right and we are on the verge of a new ‘perfect storm’ as we have seen in the past with the innovations of the personal computer, the internet, etc.

Saturday started early for me, arriving at the convention center ~8am to get the booth setup. I was hoping to attend Wendy Seltzer’s morning keynote about SOPA and free expression on-line, but unfortunately didn’t make it. Instead I hung out at the booth all morning and for most of the afternoon. After many trials and failed attempts with the netbook and monitor I resorted to my old (broken) laptop. Several people tried to help me get something up and running for a long time without much success, before we finally resorted to removing the screen from the laptop and making it an ‘ultra portable desktop’. By that point I had my laptop upgraded to the beta of Ubuntu 12.10 GNOME Remix with GNOME 3.6, which meant that I had Ubuntu 11.10 with GNOME 3.2 on the monitor and Ubuntu 12.10 with GNOME 3.6 on my laptop – which was actually interesting as you could compare and really see how far GNOME has come in the last year.

While all this was going on I talked to dozens, probably hundreds of people about GNOME, linux, FOSS, etc, passed out the GNOME Cheat Sheet, GNOME stickers and pamphlets on accessibility in GNOME. John Boyd stopped by and hung out for a long time talking about C programming and hacking on the kernel. I think I have him convinced to start contributing to GNOME – he even sounded interested in helping to teach C through GNOME University!

In any case sometime ~5pm I packed up the booth – aside from a few more cheat sheets, stickers & pamphlets which I left out for late comers and headed to C113 for Elizabeth Garbee’s “Growing Up with Linux” talk which was fantastic. She is an amazing speaker and has had some amazing opportunities thanks to luck, smiling and saying please & thank you. 

Immediately following Elizabeth’s talk was Angela Byron’s keynote “How to Create Ravenously Passionate Contributors”. Her experience of gradually rising from a quiet, shy user to become one of Drupal’s core contributors as well as a major open source speaker at conferences around the world is inspiring. 

Following the keynotes I dropped my backpack back off in my car and walked to the Three Legged Mare for the OLF After Party with MC Frontalot. It was a great party and my only regret is that I couldn’t stay for longer – I talked up a slew of people, some of whom I’d met at the booth during the day and many others I hadn’t. Amazingly I ran into several people from my area of Ohio, one of whom went to high school with the friend I was staying with in Columbus! It was definitely a ‘small world’ kind of night!

Sunday morning came far too soon, and I made it back to the convention center just a few minutes late to the start of the Diversity in Open Source Workshop. Essentially a round table discussion about diversity, it focused on diversity at OLF but also in the wider FOSS community. The diversity at OLF was quite impressive, thanks to OLF’s long-standing commitment to diversity, which is evident in their Conduct Policy which should be an inspiration to other conferences hoping to encourage diversity. They have been reaching out to minority communities for several years and it shows – I was welcomed warmly to OLF and everyone there was great. I am already looking forward to OLF 2013!


2 Responses to “Ohio LinuxFest 2012 – Afterthoughts”

  1. Vance Says:

    I’m glad you enjoyed yourself – reactions like this make volunteering at OLF incredibly rewarding! I agree that the closing keynote speakers were absolutely outstanding.

  2. Steve Says:

    I am glad you got to enjoy some of the talks. Due to some unforseen circumstances I missed the final talk on Saturday.

    Hopefully you get some use out of your ‘ultra portable’ desktop. We should thank the guys from the EFF/FOSS booth for the loan of the swiss army knife which allowed us to get the screen off for you.

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