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Ohio LinuxFest: the strength of community

This past weekend I attended the Ohio LinuxFest for the first time in Columbus, OH.  I’ve been meaning to attend OLF for a few years now, although up until this year I have had a meeting within about two weeks of OLF so haven’t been able to attend.  Well, this year I decided in favor of OLF and am very happy I decided to attend.

Ohio LinuxFest is in its sixth year, and drew over 1,000 attendees to the Columbus Convention Center this past weekend.  The Con was held on Saturday, with a variety of workshops and Linux Professional Institute (LPI) training held on Friday for additional cost.  Sunday after OLF the Fedora Ambassadors Day, North America was held, with 10 Ambassadors attending, more of which I’ll get to below.

This is a remarkable meeting is so many ways.  First of all, you don’t have to pay to attend, which is a wonderful way to lower the bar for making this meeting as accessible as possible for enthusiasts and professionals alike.  This year, over half of of the event budget was covered by OLF’s many generous sponsors.  The budget is then supplemented by a supporting level registration for individuals, which this year was $65, and included a t-shirt, lunch on Friday, drink tickets for the pre-party and post-party that free registrants didn’t receive.

Secondly, there is much to be said for bringing a community together and having lots of networking and social time to discuss, plan and innovate new ideas that they are passionate about.  The OLF schedule had a full day of contributed and solicited presentations on a wide variety of topics, combined with two excellent exhibit areas (for the Gold sponsors and the Bronze sponsors), as well as Birds of a Feather (BOF) informal meetings where interested groups could get together.  Throughout the meeting, Hewlett-Packard generously supportted an ongoing theater where everything from Revolution OS to CGI-rendered shorts made with Blender were shown, all with free popcorn.  Add to this a great pre-party at a local microbrewery 2 blocks away on Friday night, and a raucous and fun after party with live music, Atari 2600, Intellistation and NES gaming corners, and this was a great Con indeed.

Personally, I learned a bunch of things of very practical use.  Chatting with Andrew Latham, a linux consultant out of Warsaw, IN I learned that I could possibly solve some problems I’d been having getting a proprietary Windows application that I need to run as a static binary under WINE; I learned about Cheese, an nicely-featured application packaged in Fedora that Paul Frields demoed at the Fedora booth, which should work great with the Lenovo W500 that I will have coming to me in the next few weeks; I learned about IceCast from Clint Savage, a great way to capture audio discussion at a meeting and stream it out on a public channel; I learned about some of the other newer cluster file systems such as GLustreFS and PVFS2 from Joe Landman’s Scaleable Informatics booth at the show; discovered Linux Reality and the Linux Link Tech Show (TLLTS) podcast folks; found out about Zenoss, a new open source/commercially supported server infrastructure management portal, to name but a few specifics.

The other primary reason I attended was in my role as a Fedora Ambassador.  The Fedora Project held its first renewed Fedora Ambassador Day/North America following OLF, and we also had on hand lots of Ambassadors from Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, New York, Utah, South Carolina, Virginia to help out with the Fedora booth at the meeting.  Paul Frields, the Fedora Community Manager was there and really helped the profile of the Project at OLF.  The booth was very successful: we gave away hundreds of copies of Fedora 9 CD & DVD releases and re-spins, stickers, t-shirts and buttons.  Attendees loved the two OLPC XO machines that we had, running a variant of Fedora 7, an ASUS EEE running Fedora, and multiple other laptops that Ambassadors brought to the meeting.  I got the opportunity to  meet so many of the folks that I have worked with since I joined the Ambassador project back in May, which was really great.  I do think that face-to-face meetings are qualitatively better than working electronically only, since this cements relationships, common purpose and shared excitement and fun!  Specifically, I met two other Ambassadors in Indiana, Shaun Malette and Scott Williams, met our regional Ambassador Coordinator, John Rose, all the way in from Iowa, met lots of other guys with similar seeming boundless  energy: Clint Savage (our leader for FADNA ’08) and Jeffrey Tadlock (FaMSCo), Ben Williams (Fedora Unity), Jon Stanley (FESCo, Bug Zappers), David Nalley (Fedora News and others) and Brian Powell (Bug Zappers).  It was wonderful to discuss and plan some shorter term and longer term goals for North American Ambassadors, including AmbassadorKits, mentoring new Ambassadors, representing Fedora in the community, and strategies to further the Fedora Project in the LUGs and local communities where we live and work.

I’d highly recommend OLF as one of the premiere Midwest Linux events that is quickly becoming a Con of national visibility and draw.  Mark your calendar for October 16, 2009 in Columbus!


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