Report: Linuxfest Northwest 2008

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Entry BannerDan, Warren and I returned Monday afternoon from the Linuxfest Northwest 2008 event. What follows is my review of the show.


For those unfamiliar with the Linuxfest Northwest, it is an annual, two-day event held at Bellingham Technical College in Bellingham, Washington on the last weekend in April. It has become a hub of Linux activity in the Northwest with several of the Washington area Linux Users Groups supporting it. Visitors seem to come from all over the country especially those places that don't have a Linux conference anywhere near them. I also attended the LFNW last year so a bit of this review compares this year with last.

Let's get this out of the way... it was obvious that there were less visitors to the show this year than last year. I haven't seen any numbers published yet though. While that might sound bad it did make for a better show as it allowed for more time with the presenters and the exhibit booth folks.

More ExhibitsExhibitions

This year the exhibit area was expanded from one to two rooms. The additional exhibition room was used last year for large draw presentations... which there weren't any of this year. Most of the usual suspects were present. I didn't talk to too many of the booth folks because I was busy running around to and attending the presentations... but I did find time to pick up some swag.

Bongo ProjectI talked to the guy at the Bongo Project booth about the Bongo Project. The Bongo Project is an email and calendar server project that looks promising. I asked him to compare it to Zimbra Collaboration Suite and was told that Zimbra's focus was on collaboration but the Bongo Project's focus was on the individual user experience without collaboration features. It seems to have a nice, clean web interface so check it out if you are looking for an email and calendar server package.

Hackett and BankwellI bought issue #1 of Hackett and Bankwell. If you haven't heard of it yet, it describes itself as "an educational comic designed to teach the finer points of the GNU Linux platform using Ubuntu." I'm a comic book fan from way back and while I'd love to see this comic book take off so my original #1 will be worth money someday, I realize that may not happen. It's a great comic book though so check it out. If you want to see what it looks like so you might consider ordering a copy for yourself, there is an online preview available as a PDF. Please note that the preview has every fourth page or something like that.

HP 2133 mini-noteHP was showing one of their sweet new 2133 mini-note laptops that was only announced last week. There are two basic models... one with a hard drive (120GB or 160GB) and one with a 4GB solid state drive. It is my understanding that the one with the SSD is currently only available with SuSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 pre-installed... so that answers the question of "Does it run Linux?". FreeDOS is also offered pre-installed so I'm assuming that HP doesn't want to ship it with no OS installed and that FreeDOS is for those who want to install their own OS. I wonder if my favorite distros will work on it. It is competitively priced against the newer models of the ASUS eee PC.

HP was also showing off a few of the projects they sponsor: FOSSology / FOSSBazaar and LinuxCOE. FOSSology is an application to analyze source code to find out what license it is under. FOSSBazaar is an open source community of technology and industry leaders who are collaborating to accelerate adoption of free and open source software in the enterprise. The LinuxCOE SystemDesigner is a web application that allows a user to repeatably install, configure, and maintain Linux system installations. An example of LinuxCOE in operation is InstaLinux which allows you to create custom install images for a number of Linux distributions by filling out a web form.

Parallels had a booth but they were only showing their machine virtualization products and not Parallels Virtuozzo Containers. I was a little disappointed but hey at least they attended and even donated some prizes to the world famous LFNW raffle.

Both PostgreSQL and MySQL had booths. During various presentations it seemed as if almost everyone was saying my sequel rather than my es que el. When enough people start pronouncing something incorrectly, the incorrect way becomes the correct way. I hate when that happens. At least no one is saying post gres sequel.

There were a number of companies that had double-sized fancy booths and they included Silicon Mechanics, Pogo, Untangle, Zenoss, and Centrify. The first two are hardware makers, the next two are FOSS projects that have venture capital backing, and the last is an enterprise level authentication type product.

Silicon Mechanics Pogo Untangle Zenoss Centrify


Sunday ScheduleThe most obvious change from last year was that there weren't any repeated presentations and each time slot was original yielding more presentations than last year. Another big change is that two of the presentation rooms (Haskell 103 and 108) had a video camera in them with live streaming and archiving of the content. was responsible for the streaming and archiving and some folks from the BTC did all of the camera work. As a result I didn't even consider breaking out my camcorder like I did last year. Currently the videos are available as medium quality, web-embedded Flash videos but I expect that higher quality versions of the videos in different formats will be made available for download in the not too distant future... once the LFNW/BTC crew have had time to recover.

Available videos:

Here's a list of the presentations I attended:

Sat. 10AM - Hardening and Optimizing your Drupal Site by David Hazel
Sat. 11AM - Monitoring You Network with Zenoss Core by Mark Hinkle
Sat. 1:30PM - A Sneak Peek at Fedora 9 by Jesse Keating
Sat. 3PM - Custom Content Types for your Drupal Website by Jennifer Hodgdon
Sun. 10AM - OS Virtualization vs. Machine Virtualization by me
Sun. 11AM - Will Open Source Make you a Rockstar by Dirk Morris
Sun. 1:30PM - Kernel-based Virtual Machines (KVM) by Tom Eastep
Sun. 3PM - Fedora BOF lead by Jesse Keating

There were four Drupal related presentations and since I'm a Drupal user (and if you are reading this, now you are too) I attended as many as I could. For some reason only the last half of Jennifer Hodgdon's presentation made it to I hope the first half shows up as she did a great presentation and I learned a lot about the CCK and Views modules.

Jesse Keating was there as usual with two presentations revolving around Fedora 9 and the Fedora community. Red Hat also sent Jarod Wilson who gave a talk on the development process of the Fedora kernel. I didn't get to see Jarod's presentation, and unfortunately it wasn't in a room with a camera... but I did watch Dave Jones' presentation (in ogm format) on the same subject from the recent event. Luckily I saw Jerod in the audience at one of Jesse's talks and the Fedora BOF. I got the impression that Red Hat isn't as fond of Xen as it used to be and is possibly moving toward embracing KVM in the future... as long as KVM can be shoehorned into becoming fully compatible with Xen machine images. We'll see how that pans out. It was also guessed that Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 might not come out for some time and that it would definitely not be based on Fedora 9... but probably Fedora 11, 12 or even 13. While that is a long time out it appears that Red Hat may be extending the support life cycle of RHEL 5 as a result. Again, we'll see how that pans out. I'd go into some of the material Jesse covered at his talks but since both were recorded you can get that straight from him. He did give out fourty-eight 2GB USB thumb drives loaded with a bootable/live (with persistent data) version of what he called Almost Fedora 9.

I didn't attend the Zenoss presentation last year but since I'm very interested in system monitor, I attended it this year. I'm a long time Nagios user so I was interested in seeing how Zenoss was different. Boy is it different... maybe a better word would be fancy. It seems to have a lot more features than Nagios, has a much more professional and capable management interface and isn't a bear to configure like Nagios is. I'll have to check it out on my own LAN as soon as possible.

The Rockstar presentation was done by the CEO of Untangle. In his presentation he covered what Untangle was and how it started out life... and how it gradually migrated from a completely closed, proprietary system, to a free beer system, and finally to a FOSS (GPL v2) product... and the major benefits opening their product had. It was very interesting to see how excited Untangle is about the community it has built as a result of becoming FOSS and the dramatic results they have gotten. Go FOSS!

Tom Eastep gave another great presentation this year. Last year he did one on Xen but this year the subject was KVM. I've not tried KVM yet and his presentation and demo were very informative. He happened to have attended my presentation and he was kind enough to mention it and highlight OS Virtualization a little more than I think he had planned to originally. KVM looks very promising but it has some maturing to do. Perhaps in a year from now KVM will be significant competition to Xen, VMware, and Parallels but for now it is mostly for early adopters. Unfortunately this presentation wasn't in one of the rooms with a camera. Tom did say that he uses KVM virtual machines to help him troubleshoot various distributions and configurations with his shorewall firewall project... and I can see where hardware virtualization wins hands down for ease of advanced network configuration.

The Events

I actually had some money this trip and bought some raffle tickets. The raffle was held at the end of the day on Saturday. It was fairly clear when it was as people started walking out of the last presentation right near the end so they could get to the raffle. I bought 5 raffle tickets but didn't win anything. That 1U server donated by Silicon Mechanics sure did look sweet though. Raffle ticket sales, along with other items (tee-shirts, mugs, books, etc) allow the show to be a free event each year so I'm very glad they are successful with it.

Yard SaleThere was a Yard Sale booth where LUG members had donated equipment for sale with the money going to the LUGs. I heard they made over $300 which is not bad for what some of us would consider junk.

There was a trivia contest looking for the Alpha Geek this year. I don't know if that is a tradition or something that was new. I didn't attend but I watched some of the video and it seemed like a fun event.

Email GardenOpps, almost forgot to mention the Mail Garden. It was a lot smaller than last year with only four stations. I'm guessing that in years past the number of computers was overkill so they decided to scale it down some. I'm glad they offer the service because I used it both days.

In closing...

One thing that seemed to be missing this year was a survey. Correction, there was a survey but I don't think it was as widely distributed as it was last year. I didn't see it at all.

There was quite a bit of post-show chatter on the LFNW mailing list. The only gripe that I heard from the show was after it was over on the LFNW mailing list. Jesse Keating wanted to know if anyone was disturbed by the fact that so many presenters didn't use Linux to give their presentations. The email thread jumped around a bit but some constructive talk was had and as a result I believe there is going to be a training/help session for presenters next year with much more coordination up front in an effort have more Linux at Linuxfest.

I want to thank everyone associated with the Linuxfest Northwest 2008 show for putting on a quality event. I had a fantastic time. I want to also thank all of the presenters, exhibitors and sponsors. Keep up the good work and with any luck I'll see you next year. If I can come up with another presentation I'll volunteer again.

For all of the photos I took, see the LFNW 2008 gallery and do with them as you will since they are made available under a Creative Commons license.

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While it is true that Jesse

While it is true that Jesse Keating's talk is recorded and available now, it would still be interesting to hear your perspectives on it.


Really nice to see this thorough review of LFNW. I appreciate your nod to the HP booth and its HP 2133 mini-notebook. BUT I do wish you'd noticed the FOSSology project which was the main reason HP was there ;-) The project that answers the question, "Do you know how your open source software is REALLY licensed?"

Ah well, we had a ball

FOSSology project

Dan, where download FOSSology software?

Scott Dowdle's picture

Not hard to find

Clicked on link to FOSSology website, clicked on Download:

Scott Dowdle's picture

Now that you mention it


I did talk to the guy at the FOSSology section of the booth... was that you? I even got a tee-shirt. I'll amend my report to include that. I also talked about the network based distro installer service you guys have. For some reason the name is eluding me at the moment.

MySQL Pronounciation

I refuse to say MY-SEQUEL. No sir, won't say it. It's MY-S-Q-L for me. I've had enough "discussions" about it with some friends that came from the Windows world to work with Linux tools. They're used to saying SEQUEL-SERVER. It makes me cry a little bit.

Too bad I missed you this year. I moved from Washington to Kansas about six months ago. And as such, I can't attend LFNW anymore. Sad, really.

I'm a loyal, heavy OpenVZ user. I use it for every server and every client project. I've written so many automation tools and toys for it. If I can clean them up and package them properly, I'd love to share what I've done. It might be awhile before then. Someday, someday.

Thanks for making the video of your presentation available online and thanks for making your way to LFNW to present. I hope you inspired at least a few in that group to check out OpenVZ and implement it themselves.

Virtualizaiton - User-Mode Linux

With all these virtualization options, your explaining some of the differences is always helpful. One you missed was the User-Mode Linux.

Same Linux distro, running multiple virtual hosts. I guess it doesn't have any management tools, so won't scale well in the data center. BUT it sounds like a good solution for your laptop or personal workstation.

Anyway, you might add this one to your next talk about virtualization.

thanks for help at LFNW !!

Size and Survey

Great writeup!

I haven't seen final numbers yet, but my feeling is that the attendance was on par with last year. I felt less crowded, however, for reasons you mentioned in your article. There was more space for exhibits than in the past and more concurrent and unique presentations. That tended to spread folks out quite a bit.

I'm disappointed to read that you didn't get a survey. It's a challenge every year to get them out to folks. Rest assured that one was produced and distributed. You'll also probably see an online version shortly.


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