Ohio Linux Fest 2013

For the second year I attended and ran a GNOME booth this past weekend at Ohio Linux Fest in Columbus Ohio. Ohio Linux Fest is now in its 10th year, having first been held in 2003 as an attempt to bring local Ohio LUGs (Linux User Groups) together.

This year I managed to convince my husband Kevin to assist with the GNOME booth, which made for a much better experience. We arrived around 8:30am on Saturday morning to setup. Since I had a second person this year I was able to attend a few talks, and just wander around away from the table from time to time. Around 1pm I took off and attended first “The Rise and Fall of Copyleft” and then “Encyrption for Everyone”.

“The Rise and Fall of Copyleft” was interesting as it primarily went over the rise of ‘the gpl’ (GPL v2) and the reasons (or lack thereof) for the move to the current ecosystem of licenses, including the GPL v3, LGPL v3, BSD and GPL v2. In the end Rob Landley did not have time to finish his entire talk, but during the Q&A session when asked what license he would recommend to projects today, suggested the public domain. To me this seems like a bit of a cop-out, but I understand (though do not necessarily agree with) his concerns with the GPL v3. I am curious to hear a dissenting point of view and wonder what other peoples’ thoughts are.

“Encryption for Everyone” by Dru Streicher was an interesting talk about the various encryption systems and how they can be used by everyone. It seems as though every time I attend a conference I am reminded of encryption and its usefulness. Likewise, after nearly every conference I come home determined to begin using encryption more, though I have (as yet) failed to do so. According to Dru one of the simplest ways to begin utilizing encryption is to get a gpg key and begin using it via Thunderbird. As I am primarily a GNOME user, and haven’t installed (let alone used) Thunderbird in a few years, I can’t help but to wonder how Evolution compares.

After these two talks I returned to the booth for a couple more hours, where I answered many questions about GNOME 3. I repeatedly showed off GNOME Tweak Tool, GNOME Classic, GNOME Extensions and some of the accessibility tools – especially Text Larger, High Contrast and Zoom functions as I encountered several folks with poor/low vision. Though this is my second year at Ohio Linux Fest, I am still amazed by how many folks have never seen GNOME Shell, or done so only briefly in the very early 3.0/3.2 days. Many people were especially interested in extensions, and the ability to install, enable and disable them from a web browser. GNOME Classic also remains a largely unknown option for many, including most who are current users of GNOME 3. As a result I found myself repeatedly logging in/out of 3.9.91 in order to demo GNOME Classic before returning to the normal GNOME 3 experience.

Around 5pm Kevin was kind enough to pack up the booth by himself and haul everything back out to our car, allowing me to to attend first ‘Offensive Body Language’ and the last two keynotes of the day. Offensive Body Language was interesting and led me to continually evaluate my own body language – during the talk, later on, and even now a couple of days later.

The final keynotes of the day were by Robyn Bergeron & Kirk McKusick were both interesting. Robyn Bergeron, the leader of the Fedora Project spoke about work/life balance in both the open source world and the technology industry in general. Her experiences – personally, as a co-worker, and as a leader were instructive and a good reminder. Finally Kirk McKusick finished with a talk about FreeBSD, including the history of BSD, and how its license differs from that of the GNU/Linux project.

After the conference officially ended for the day we all headed over to the Three Legged Mare for a wonderful after party sponsored by HP. There I met up with Kevin once again (who, after dropping off all the stuff from the booth had discovered the Columbus Microbrewery Festival across the street and elected to stay there :), and had the chance to catch up with some folks I’d met last year, and others I’d not met before.

Overall, Ohio Linux Fest 2013 was a great experience and one I highly recommend. It remains the most diverse conference I’ve attended, with a higher percentage of women and people of color than I’ve seen anywhere else. The Diversity in Open Source Workshop which was held on Sunday was wonderful as always, and I look forward to reading the notes & writings which should be out in a few days. Though I had to leave a bit early this year, the conference’s organizers clearly remain committed to diversity and it shows. I hope to see even more folks at the workshop and the conference itself next year!