CrunchBang at Linux Fest Northwest

[Warning: This will be a long post. For those of you with limited attention spans, for those of you who are too lazy to read, or for those who can't process more than 140 characters at a time, here's the TL:DR version of this blog item: Linux Fest Northwest was enormously outstanding and awesome (attendance is up, too), the CrunchBang booth was a huge success, the CrunchBang talk was well attended, and I stand by the statement I made to Hacker Public Radio last year: This show is so great, I'd walk to Bellingham from California to attend.]

lfnw-badgeBlame the Econolodge in Bellingham, which should be renamed “the Black Hole of the Internet,” for the complete absence of workable wireless connectability which causes me to compress two fantastic days of FOSS festivities into one blog item written after the fact from the Motel 6 in Salem, Oregon (it should be noted that, unlike the Econolodge, the wireless at both Motel 6 venues we stayed at — in Medford, Oregon, on the way up and here in Salem on the way back — has been quite good).

All of which is to say I apologize for the delay in getting this out.

In short, Linux Fest Northwest nailed it this weekend — the LFNW all-volunteer crew had everything up and running flawlessly in a revamped show area courtesy of some remodeling by Bellingham Technical College that included a auditorium that made for an oustanding expo hall and classrooms with world-class electronics (meaning, of course, my presentation worked with a limited amount of pre-talk tweaking at the outset augmented by prayers to the projector gods).

The normal tsunami of attendees came through the expo floor around 9ish on Saturday, bringing with it the usual hubbub of Linux fest questions, comments and observations. At the CrunchBang booth, media and fliers flew off the table, and folks were trying out the distro on both the old ThinkPad T30 and the newer Toshiba Satellite L455 that were featured on the CrunchBang table. The ebb and flow of humanity — I’m guessing around 1,400 attendees, though LFNW is going to release an official figure soon — rose and fell when sessions were on, but on the whole it was an ideal show for the two days. We ran out of media, fliers and everything by the end of the day on Sunday (OK, I gave the remaining five CrunchBang DVDs to the Greater Seattle LUG, but still).

Some vignettes:

Hey, I know you
: I finally got to meet Benjamin Kerensa, with whom I have shared words — mostly kind but occasionally not-so-kind — in the past. Benjamin and his wife staffed the Mozilla table, and it was great to put a face to the name of a true FOSS advocate with whom I can sometimes disagree without either of us being disagreeable (as it should be). Naturally, I’m looking forward to seeing Benjamin and Mozilla at more shows.

Badges? You need steeenkin’ badges: Most folks would find this trivial, but I thought it was fairly cool. The badges for LFNW were small booklets with the speaker schedule printed inside, along with other important information (like directions to the party on Saturday eve). So at the end of your lanyard, you had the entire fest at your fingertips just by looking “inside” your badge (it should be noted, from a logistical standpoint too, that the names were printed on a sticker and put on the badge). Other shows — SCALE, white courtesy phone — need to look at this because it was very helpful.

Lights, camera, action: For some reason, there tended to be a lot of folks there to do media-type work. Hacker Public Radio was there, as usual, doing interviews (of which I was one — thanks!) and Jupiter Broadcasting had the Linux Action Show broadcasting live from their booth on Saturday — it would be interesting to see their take on the show later. Slashdot had an interviewer as well as some independents (e.g., people with video cameras posting independently to YouTube) interviewing folks, and of course I’ve never shied away from a microphone or a camera before. So there are some items of me talking about CrunchBang out there.

15943044This is us: The CrunchBang booth was an unqualified success in large part from the help I got from xor axiom, whom many of you on the CrunchBang forums know (but whose real name is Eric Bortel). About 100 pieces of media were distributed, with the same amount of fliers accompanying them. Last year, we got a lot of “What’s CrunchBang?” This year, there was more “I’ve used CrunchBang before . . . ” so the distro is becoming more well-known. The presentation itself on Sunday morning had about 30 people in attendance and, as the aforementioned new equipment in the classroom helping out, the presentation went off without a hitch.

Sunday’s broadcast: Since Jupiter Broadcasting left the building on Sunday, I decided to crank up one of my favorite Linux podcasts — Linux Outlaws — on the Toshiba to show that, yes, CrunchBang can broadcast with the best of ‘em. So on the relatively solid backbone of the Bellingham Technical College’s network, Dan Lynch and Fabian “Go Penguins!” Scherschel were in the house for Linux Fest Northwest.

Does this joke make me look stupid? OK, maybe it was the delivery or maybe it’s a generational thing. At the end of my presentation I made a point, as I usually do, to say what a great show LFNW is and to thank the volunteers when encountering them for making the show work. The LFNW volunteer staff wears red shirts (you know where I’m going with this). After I asked folks to thank the volunteers, I added ” . . . and urge them not to go down to the planet surface.” Cue crickets chirping. So maybe I won’t be here all week, but still remember to tip your waitress . . .

There is more to follow, but I have to hit the road.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy, Larry the CrunchBang 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 has just started developing software at Redwood Digital Research (RDR), a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment. RDR is based in Felton, California, USA.

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North by (Linux Fest) Northwest

lfnw-badgeToward the end of this week — well, Thursday to be exact — I’ll be loading up the car with a few laptops, about 100 pieces of CrunchBang media (DVDs, not CDs), a paper #! banner, my daughter and her equipment and we’ll head north to Linux Fest Northwest in Bellingham, Washington on April 27-28.

The question now is whether I can get to Corvallis, Oregon, in a day and maybe stop in to visit Lance Albertson and the folks at the Oregon State University Open Source Lab on Friday morning . . . .

15943044As for CrunchBang’s presence at LinuxFest Northwest, we’ll have a booth and I’ll have help staffing the booth (if it’s not too much of an embarrassment to him, a big “thanks” goes out to xoraxiom, a CrunchBanger who’ll also be attending LFNW, and he gets recognition here for help in the booth). We also have a Birds of a Feather gathering scheduled for Saturday afternoon — note to corenominal, it’s 1:30 p.m. Pacific Time, so if you’re around on Saturday around 9:30 your time and we can ping you, your presence is requested — and I speak on Sunday at 11 a.m. on “Intro to CrunchBang.”

Last year, flying the CrunchBang flag was quite successful, as I noted here. Many were surprised that we had a booth, some had never heard of CrunchBang (heresy!) and others were glad to see us there. We even got a couple of new users who tried CrunchBang and liked it. Now if I can get another interview on Hacker Public Radio, we’ll be all set.

Watch this space — updates as they develop.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy, Larry the CrunchBang 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 has just started developing software at Redwood Digital Research (RDR), a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment. RDR is based in Felton, California, USA.

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It’s showtime

As you read this — or as least, as I write this — the O’Reilly Open Source Conference, more commonly known as OSCON, is getting started in Portland, Oregon, and will be open for the better part of the week. OSCON is the largest Linux/Open Source conference in North America — though not the best (that still goes to the Southern California Linux Expo, or SCALE) — and if you’re within driving distance of Portland, you should take the time to go to OSCON this week.

I won’t be at OSCON this week representing CrunchBang for a couple of reasons: a.) I have news colleagues covering the Olympics in London and, with the staff being hacked down to bare bones on the news desk, I have to stay here, and b.) because OSCON leans more toward the corporate and less toward the hackers, the spaces for the “dot-org” section were cut, and they were filled very early, leaving folks like Fedora and Ubuntu scrambling for space when they were passed over in the first round of “dot-org” choices. No doubt that’s been settled by corporate masters up a few rungs on the Red Hat and Canonical ladders respectively. But the chances are that we would have probably been shut out of booth space this year. But next year . . .

However, if you’re in the Southwest — Texas or thereabouts — you might want to check out Texas Linux Fest in San Antonio on Aug. 3-4. Again, I’ll be trapped at my desk and won’t be attending, but TXLF is a growing show that is gaining popularity, and if you’re in the area, you should take the time to go.

The reason I bring these shows up is that I think everyone who is near one — by “near” I mean within either driving or bus/train distance over the course of, say, a day’s travel — should go. You learn a lot at the sessions, you get to see vendors who, more times than not, give you more swag than you can carry (for example, I have not bought a T-shirt since 2006: True story) and, of course, you get to meet and talk to other Linux users about about FOSS programs and distros — especially CrunchBang — if the topic is raised.

I don’t know what’s going on in Europe — FOSDEM has passed if I understand correctly, and I know there are other shows there during the course of the year — but I have heard rumor (or rumour, since it’s happening in the UK) that our own Philip Newborough has been coerced into attending OggCamp in Liverpool sometime next month (and presenting, maybe?).

Other than talking to LUGs about CrunchBang for the rest of the year, I think my schedule for expos and shows this year is done. I don’t fly — my arms get tired — and so I’m going to have to miss shows later in the year, like Ohio Linux Fest, but we’ll have a booth at SCALE and Linux Fest Northwest next year. If you’re in the area and want to work the CrunchBang booth in Los Angeles or Bellingham, Washington (north of Seattle), let me know.

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

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Linux Fest Northwest makes its mark

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.

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(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing 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

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 has just started developing 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

The CrunchBang 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 has just started developing software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

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Update on Linux Fest Northwest prep

As I’ve mentioned ad nauseum on the CrunchBang forums, I have arranged for a booth at Linux Fest Northwest this year, being held at the end of this month in Bellingham, Washington. For those of you keeping score at home, here’s where we are with the CrunchBang booth at LFNW.

Booth: The booth — table, actually — has been secured and we have a listing on the Sponsor page (though we’re really not sponsors in a monetary sense — like other dot-orgs, we’re designated as “community supporters,” which is pretty obvious :-) ). Also, I’ve already had a few folks from near the northwestern Washington area — CrunchBang users all, along with a spouse — sign up to help out at the booth and attend the show.

Presentation: The presentation “An Intro to CrunchBang,” given by me, has been approved, though it has yet to be scheduled. I am working on the slides for the presentation now and, so there are no surprises (“I swear I don’t know how that slide got in there!”), I’ll be running the presentation by the CrunchBang faithful and, of course, Philip Newborough just to make sure I get his imprimatur on the slides. Once they’re ready, they’ll be used at Linux Fest Northwest and they’ll be available to anyone who wants to use them for any CrunchBang presentation at a LUG or any other gathering, should anyone want to do a presentation.

Birds of a Feather: Linux expos here in the U.S. have gatherings called “Birds of a Feather,” or BOFs, because — say it with me — “birds of a feather flock together.” These usually happen on the Saturday night of the weekend show, and it’s usually a chance for distro or FOSS program users to get together around their chosen software and discuss things. At the Southern California Linux Expo SCALE 10X in January, the CrunchBang BoF was fairly successful — about 10 people, most of whom were at my presentation about smaller distros — came and I gave away around 4 or 5 USB sticks with CrunchBang on them (that’s all I had in my pocket and backpack, sadly). We’ll be having a CrunchBang BoF, yet to be scheduled, sometime over the course of the weekend at LFNW.

Media: Ah, media. I am currently burning CDs of the latest Statler image, plus we’ll have one of my laptops that will be specifically set up to make live USB sticks (provided to us, of course, by those who have them and want a copy of CrunchBang). To be honest, this part is going slowly — it’s like cooking a hot dog with a match. However, I would like to think we could have 200 CDs burned by the time LFNW rolls around. Since the show has about 1,000 attendees, this will probably mean that the “loaves and fishes” trick will have to come into play sooner or later, but we’ll see how long the media holds out. When we’re out, we’ll start making USB sticks.

Materials: I’m open to suggestions on this. I have a sticker that I’m making up for the event, a copy of a meme that SaltStack used at SCALE this year (copying with their blessing, of course). I will probably spring for a 50-pack set of stickers from the CrunchBang shop. Fliers — anyone have any ideas here? Otherwise, I’ll make up some of my own. I’m also making up a banner to go with the booth patterned after the rectangular sticker — very basic #! CrunchBang Linux, white lettering on black background — but for future shows, I’d like to use a tablecloth with the CrunchBang name and logo, taking a page from Fedora’s playbook.

Other stuff: ZaReason, a Linux hardware maker in Berkeley, California, has asked if they can share the table with us, providing a couple of their laptops running CrunchBang. I said yes, but if anyone has any objections, I could always shelve that plan. There’s a good chance I’ll be traveling to Bellingham by train — now that Amtrak’s Coast Starlight route has wireless (thank God!), I’ll be on line for the better part of the trip.

In case this is a concern, because it’s bound to come up sooner or later: This is not costing CrunchBang anything — I am doing this on my own (and on my own dime, so to speak) because I believe that CrunchBang is an excellent distro that, despite the fact it’s not for everyone, deserves to reach a wider audience.

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

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