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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Asking questions, getting answers

One of the best parts — arguably the best part — about being a CrunchBang user are the answers that are readily available in the CrunchBang forums, whether they’re already there (a search usually brings up a question you might have that has been discussed and answered already) or whether you’re asking it for the first time to an enthused group of forum folks ready and willing to answer your unasked question.

And now you’re expecting me to say, “But,” or “However . . . .” Surprise: I’m not. The reason I bring up the CrunchBang forums and how well they work is to raise one of my personal quests in the FOSS realm that, if I were to succeed, I think it would make things a lot easier for everyone on several levels.

You could ask, “What might that be?” And I would answer, “asking questions better and answering them more civilly.”

Eric Raymond and Rick Moen wrote a treatise about this many years ago that’s required reading at Felton LUG. It’s called “How to Ask Questions the Smart Way” and it is a remarkable guide regarding how to ask questions that will outline your problem efficiently for those who have to answer it. At the same time, it also has a guide for those who have been around the FOSS/Linux block — OK, for some, around the FOSS/Linux world — a few times regarding how to answer questions as well.

Bear in mind that I don’t bring this up because I think there’s a problem in this regard in the CrunchBang forums. Far from it; I think that questions and answers are handled quite well there. In fact, I’ll go one step further: I think the way the CrunchBang community works, as shown in the forums, is a textbook case of how FOSS communities should work.

I bring it up only as a reminder that I think everyone should give “How to Ask Questions the Smart Way” a read — from the newest Linux user to the most seasoned veteran — because there’s something in it for everyone.

(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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