LinuxFest Northwest 2011 Report


LFNW EntryLFNW EntryThe end of April... is LinuxFest Northwest time. This was my 5th year attending and it was their 11th annual conference. As usual, I took my camcorder along and recorded all of the presentations I attended. Oddly no one from the BozemanLUG nor the BillingsLUG were able / interested in going with me so I was all by myself. I don't drive very much since I have been riding the bus too and from work for the past 4.5 years... so this was my first road trip in a while where I was doing all of the driving. I made it there and back in one piece so I guess I did ok. Thanks goes to my father-in-law for lending me his tricked out 1996 Mercury Grand Marquis for the trip as my wife really didn't want me to take our minivan. I owned a 1976 Mercury Marquis back in high school and that thing was a boat. The '96 was a dream to drive.

Registration DeskRegistration DeskThe Venue

The venue was the same and the portion of Bellingham Technical College used for the show hasn't changed much although I'm not sure if the DMC building was used in the past or not. If so, I guess it is just for stuff I was less interested in because I didn't make it there this year either.

Exhibits and Vendors

The exhibit area was in Building G as usual. The list of exhibitors had many of the usual suspects... although ModWest out of Missoula had a booth... and donated a Bruce Schneier action figure with accessories as a raffle prize. I didn't spend a whole of time in the exhibit area this year... as it was just so darn crowded. I have no idea what the attendance figures were but man, was it crowded at times.

ModWest BoothModWest BoothI bought myself a blue LFNW 2011 XXL tee-shirt for $15. I didn't see much in the way of tee-shirts being given away but on Sunday I hit the impressive openSUSE booth and bought one of their shirts (no XXLs left so I got an XL) for $5 and got a complimentary stuffed penguin. SWAG wasn't too bad this year especially if you wanted some magazines, ink pens, stickers, or Linux live / install media.

Here's the exhibitor list:

Amazon Web Services, BitPusher, Brown Paper Tickets, BTC Bookstore, BTC LinuxFest Network Team, Candela Technologies,, EFF, Everett LUG, FSF, Greater Seattle LUG,, LibreOffice, Linux Fund, LOPSA, ModWest, NortWest Innovation Resource Center, OpenStreetMap, OpenSUSE, Oracle Technology Group, Pogo Linux, Technology Alliance Group for Northwest Washington, TAPCUG Linux SIG, The Fedora Project, The FreeBSD Project (PC-BSD), The Next Generation I.T. Club, Ubuntu WA LoCo, USENIX Association, Vancouver LUG, Whatcom Association of Celestial Observers, World Famous Raffle, Yard Sale, and ZaReason.

The ZaReason folks had some pretty sweet laptops on display.

Sessions / Presentations

As usual, the vast majority of presentations where held in Haskell Center. There were five 55 minute time slots with about nine concurrent presentations per slot running on Saturday. Sunday had four 55 minute time slots with about eleven concurrent presentations. That is a LOT of presentations where you can only see a fraction of the content. Why so many? I think it has a bit to do with the venue being a school with plenty of classrooms and but not so many larger rooms. If the venue had several really large rooms, I'm sure there would be less presentations with more attendees per presentation. Most of the presentations I went to were well attended.

Unfortunately they don't have the ability to record and post videos of all of the presentations... so people like me are left to record them on their own. It is something I enjoy doing and I wish there were more folks like me. I made sure to ask for permission from every presenter.

There were a few last-minute cancellations and / or fill-ins. For example, Larry Cafiero from The Fedora Project couldn't make it so Adam Williamson filled in for him on one presentation while Larry's second presentation was simply dropped. Major Linux mainline kernel developer Greg Kroah-Hartman was scheduled to do a talk entitled, Write, and Submit, your first Linux kernel patch but due to unavoidable family health issues he had to cancel. He does hope to make it next year though. Anand Avati from Gluster had to cancel his presentation entitled, Virtual Storage for Linux Environments although I'm not sure why. There were a couple of additional cancellations but with so much content, the negative impact was minimal.

I attended 8.5 presentations and recorded 8 of them. I forgot a piece of my tripod, went back to the hotel to get it and was late for the first Saturday presentation. Check out the videos of the ones I did record.

Crash Course in Open Source Cloud Computing by Mark Hinkle 148.8 MB
Understanding FOSS Licensing & Legal Lessons learned from Fedora, by Tom (spot) Callaway 152.1 MB
What's New in Fedora (15) by Adam Williamson 141.9 MB
GNOME 3, What to expect with the next generation user friendly desktop by Sriram Ramkrishna 139.0 MB
Linux Native Containers (LXC) by Tom Eastep 117.8 MB
Linux-Vservers - One hunk of hardware, loads of servers by Rod Anderson 132.5 MB
Rethinking infrastructure: Putting the System back into Systems Administration by Brett Lentz 155.3 MB
With Software As A Service, Is Only The Network Luddite Free? by Bradley Kuhn 144.4 MB

Luckily I didn't see too many presenters using Windows on their laptops but there were still a few Mac users. I think people should use Linux to present at a Linux show but I think I might be in the minority.

Being a somewhat experienced user, I was somewhat disappointed with the technical depth of one or two of the presentations I attended but that was more than made up for by other presentations where I had an opportunity to ask questions of and interact with some fairly high profile community members both from the FOSS community (Bradley Kuhn and Joe "Zonker" Brockmeier for example) and The Fedora Project (Tom "spot" Callaway, Adam Williamson, and Jesse Keating among others). I think the interaction with project and community members is really something that shines at LFNW!

The Linux Action Show guys had one room all day and did several presentations / shows. I'm not too big of a LAS fan because I'm a Fedora fanboy and they have been quite harsh in their last few Fedora reviews... overly harsh. This year I did catch their review of Ubuntu 11.04 and they were overly harsh on it too. They are just a bit too negative for me at times... although I'll admit that I do occasionally watch their video show. They did their another Why Linux Sucks (third annual) which I assume will be available online real soon now if not already. Anyone have the URL for that?

The weather on Saturday was a bit cloudy with a few rain sprinkles here and there. Sunday was very sunny, warm and pleasant... which supposedly worked against people showing up as I heard one person comment, although I'm sure they were exaggerating, that that was the first really nice day in two years.

The LFNW web site allows attendees to sign up for an account, create a user profile, and then create a schedule for the presentations they plan to attend. Tom Eastep said he was perplexed by the fact that his Sunday after lunch presentation on Linux Native Containers showed over 20 attendees on the web site but only half that actually showed up. Chalk that up to the weather being too good. :) I attended all of the presentations I signed up for.

Raffle CrowdRaffle CrowdWorld Famous Raffle

Of course what would a LFNW conference be without the raffle? It is a free show after all... so they need to raise money for the programs, posters, tee-shirts, and the excellent Saturday night party. The prizes on display were of the usual sort. Books, magazine subscriptions, licenses to a few commercial tools (Komodo IDE and CodeWeaver's Crossover products), tee-shirts, bags, USB thumbdrives, a wireless access point... the previously mentioned Bruce Schneier action figure with accessories. One of the several prizes that caught my eye was the complete collection of Drupal training videos on DVD from Lullabot. There were also some expensive packages for USENIX and LISA, both pay shows. The bigger ticket items were a Motorola Xoom android tablet and a uber desktop workstation from the Pogo Linux folks. I bought $20 worth of tickets... $10 in the morning and $10 around lunchtime... and darn my luck, I didn't win anything yet another year. I'll keep trying though.

There were soooo many people in the room during the raffle and it went on for over an hour. It seemed as if the room was running out of oxygen and getting a bit hot. I exaggerate but you get my point. I'm not a crowd person and the raffle was crowded.

Saturday Night Party

I stayed at the Hampton Inn and as luck would have it, the Saturday Night Party was in Hampton Inn's Fox Hall. It ran from 6PM until Midnight. I hit it about 6:30-8 at which point I headed back to the room. There was free food (pizza, Swedish meatballs, chicken kabobs, veggies) and snacks (cookies and brownies)... and later... a few home-micro-brews. Everything was free. On the tables they had their customary two bowls... one with Cheetos and the other with M&Ms.

There was quite a bit of gaming going on too. They had a Nintendo Wii set up at one end of the room and folks were playing some Wii games... Super Mario Bros. Wii and Mario Party just to name two.

At the opposing end of the room was some system (an Xbox 360?) running Rock Band 3... with a few folks jamming out to some rock tunes.

At the tables there were a few folks playing the board game Settlers of Catan. I was sitting at one of the Catan tables for a while but I just watched. There was quite a bit of strategy going on there.

Fox Hall is quite large and the turn out for the party was very good. I didn't notice any empty tables in the room... and once the beer arrived the line ran long for some time as a few people would get a glass of beer and then walk right back to the end of the line.

Party CrowdParty Crowd   Catan GameCatan Game   FoodFood   Nintendo WiiNintendo Wii   Rock BandRock Band


This report is a lot like previous LFNW reports... and that is a good thing. I'd guess that the attendance this year was larger than last year... but I don't know how it stands with regards to other years. The gender mix seemed closer to even than ever before with plenty of females in attendance. I think there were more presentation cancellations (and I was really looking forward to Greg Kroah-Hartman) this year though... but overall nothing really to complain about. I mean, it's a free show and people put in a lot of work just to make it happen. I applaud them. Keep up the good work... it is appreciated. I'd also recommend continuing to keep it a free conference and the BTC is a great venue too.

There was one very pushy yet somewhat humorous guy demanding attendees take a paper survey. I filled one out. I hope they post the results of the survey publicly although given the fact that they were paper with hand written answers, I don't envy whoever has to process them.

See you there next year I hope!

Video: LFNW2011 - Crash Course in Open Source Cloud Computing


There were a number of presentations at LFNW 2011 on Cloud Computing. I only attended one... Crash Course in Open Source Cloud Computing by Mark Hinkle. Enjoy.

If it doesn't play in your browser it is probable that your browser doesn't support HTML 5 video and/or webm yet. Feel free to download the webm file and play it locally with your preferred media player. I recommend VLC.

Cloud_Computing.webm (148.8 MB)

Video: LFNW2011 - Understanding FOSS Licensing


Tom "spot" Callaway did a presentation entitled, "Understanding FOSS Licensing & Legal Lessons learned from Fedora". Lots of interesting information and discussion in the Q&A.

If it doesn't play in your browser it is probable that your browser doesn't support HTML 5 video and/or webm yet. Feel free to download the webm file and play it locally with your preferred media player. I recommend VLC.

FOSS_Licensing.webm (152.1 MB)

Video: LFNW2011 - Bradley Kuhn, Software as a Service


This was my personal favorite presentation that I attended / recorded. Bradley Kuhn did four different presentations at LFNW but this is the only one I attended. The title of the talk was: With Software As A Service, Is Only The Network Luddite Free? Bradley basically talks about how Software as a Service (SaaS) is actually a step backward for freedom and a move away from Free Software to proprietary... and what we can do to fix that. There are some interesting discussions in the Q&A section in the later part. Questioners include Jesse Keating from Red Hat and Joe "Zonker" Brockmeier.

If it doesn't play in your browser it is probable that your browser doesn't support HTML 5 video and/or webm yet. Feel free to download the webm file and play it locally with your preferred media player. I recommend VLC.

SaaS_Problems.webm (144.4 MB)

The video is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.

BozemanLUG: April Meeting Report


Jordan SchatzJordan SchatzMy report is a little late because I spent about 13 hours today driving from Bozeman to Bellingham, WA for the LinuxFest Northwest 2011... but more on that later.

In attendance were:
Gary Bummer
Rob Potter
David Eder
Jordan Schatz
Sheldon Ross
Scott Dowdle

The weather was terrible (rain turned to snow) so I'm happy we had such a good turnout considering.

Sheldon moved to Helena some time ago but obviously he is back in Bozeman now. I'm not sure when he moved back. Casey is a friend of Jordan's and I didn't catch Casey's last name. Gary helped set up the projector for Jordan and helped put it away too.

Jordan Schatz introduced us to GIT. After he had spent some time explaining the various concepts, we all logged into a lab machine and did some git exercises as directed by Jordan to get some hands on. We used git from the command line as well as gitk and git gui. As usual, David had to see how much he could push git to try and make it break. 9GB of files later, and I think it was still working fine. Here are Jordan's presentation notes and links:

Jordan volunteered to do another presentation next month... but we didn't decide on which one it would be so we'll have to figure that before the next meeting. A big THANK YOU to Jordan for the presentation!

I booted two of the lab machines with the new Ubuntu 11.04 LiveCDs... one 32-bit and the other 64-bit. Rob and Gary used them for their GIT exercises as they were able to install git and use it from the LiveCD.

David showed his homebrew Fedora 14 LiveUSB. It differs from other Fedora Live media because it mounts its filesystem read/write rather than using the typical overlay. As a result, updates do not eventually fill up the drive because they take up about as much space as the original packages did. David's preference was a fairly light-weight system with XFCE as the default desktop environment.

The meeting ended about 9:30 PM.

Video: Programming - Why Javascript Matters

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I recorded this 1 hour and 16 minute video on Wednesday, April 20th at Montana State University Bozeman. It is a presentation entitled Why Javascript Matters by Douglas Crockford.

The video is in webm format and embedded above. If you can't see it, perhaps your browser doesn't like webm. You can download the video directly (right-click, Save link as...) and play it locally with any recent version of VLC.
Why_Javascript_Matters-Douglas_Crockford.webm (248.6MB)

Opinion: How is Linux doing?


Our friend Ed Dunnigan wrote saying:

It is my impression the Linux users and Distros are sitting on our hands. We seem to have arrived.

I wonder how many new Linux users are out there now? I pull down three Linux Users Groups and it has been a long long time since I saw a new user asking questions. I have been using Linux since about '95 or so, and with my aging problem (memory loss) I always learned a lot at users group meetings. Now it seems to me the recent presentations I have noted are very specialised. Not the general subject about Linux.

Have we, The Linux Community, given up trying for new users?

I'll give my response and I encourage everyone to reply with theirs too.

Video: A tablet done right

Some time ago I wrote a critical blog post of the iPad. As you know, Apple came out with the iPad 2 not long ago... and it STILL SUCKS... for a number of reasons... not the least of which is that it is a completely closed device.

Here's an example of what I think is a fantastic tablet design. Unfortunately it runs Android rather than a stock Linux distro. I'm not against Android but anything that can run full HD video and offers enough ports and a netbook-ish docking station should be capable of running a full Linux distro, right? Oh, I know you were wondering... but no... it hasn't been released in the US yet. I've seen a few Brits post unboxing videos on YouTube already.

I would have preferred posting this video in either the webm or ogv formats, but it comes from YouTube so I didn't have much choice. Sorry.

Update - Android Central has a review of the device that is interesting reading. There is definitely room for improvement. I'd like to see an ethernet port, and a headphones and microphone jack on the docking station.

Fedora: virt-manager with SPICE support coming in Fedora 15

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virt-managervirt-managerI've been keeping up with the virtualization related developments in the upcoming Fedora 15... but even if I weren't... Fedora offers a fedora-virt-preview repository that makes it easy to ckeck out the new stuff on Fedora 14.

Adding SPICE support to virt-manager is one of the upcoming features in Fedora 15 and as of 2011-03-28 it appears to be 100% done. I decided to use the fedora-virt-preview repository to check it out on my Fedora 14 workstation.


If you aren't familiar with virt-manager, it is the default GUI-based management application for virtual machines on Fedora and Red Hat Enterprise Linux... as well as a few other distros. virt-manager uses libvirt so it can support a number of virtual machine types but it is primarily used for KVM and Xen. I use it with KVM and KVM is the only virtualization product that offers SPICE support currently.

QXL videoQXL videoTo try out the added SPICE support I took an existing Fedora 14 virtual machine and edited its configuration with virt-manager. In the Video device I changed the Model from "cirrus" to "qxl".

Then I deleted the existing VNC-based Graphics device and added a SPICE server. There are a number of different SPICE related options... what port to run it on... whether only the local machine can access it or if it is accessible remotely... use a password or not. There is a setting for SSL port but I'm not sure if that is actually operational... as I have not figured out the SSL stuff yet.

In virt-manager's preferences they have added a toggle for the default graphic device, either VNC or SPICE. Of course you can always delete one and add the other if the default isn't what you wanted.

Adding SPICEAdding SPICEDoing some testing I verified that everything worked. If I picked local access only, you had to be on the same machine to access the VM with SPICE. If you allowed remote access, that worked.

BozemanLUG: March Meeting Report

Turnout for the meeting tonight was great. There were two new people, the regulars, and a few lost sheep that returned. Let's see if I can remember them all... without some last names.

Bruce Stucker(sp?) (new)
Paul (new)
Rob Potter (semi-regular... almost back to regular)
David Eder (regular)
Gary Bummer (regular)
Matt (has attended a few meetings)
Jordan Schatz (fairly new, presenter)
Scott Dowdle (me)

Did I miss anybody? Darn it... I forgot to bring my digital camera so I didn't get any pictures. Please someone next month reply to my meeting announcement with a "Hey Scott.. don't forget your camera!", ok? :)

Jordan's presentation on NoSQL was very technical and in-depth. He crammed a lot of information into it... lots of concepts... went over a large number of existing NoSQL projects... why they exist... what environments they come from... how they differ... strengths and weaknesses. We learned about shards as well as various replication styles. We learned about Amazon's paper on Dynamo. We learned about the CAP theorem and ACID. I found the concepts to be very helpful. We learned a little bit about ERLANG. He talked about JSON. He talked about the Thrift and Protocol Buffer protocols... and the fact that many of the NoSQL databases speak HTTP and can in some cases eliminate the need for a webserver. There were lots of acronyms but Jordan explained all that we asked about. Jordan said he would share with us all of his presentations materials. I look forward to that and will post them on the website... because I plan on going through them... following many of the links and doing some reading.

Update: Here are Jordan's links and notes from his presentation:

Then Jordan was asked (I believe by Rob) what development tools he uses in his web development career? EMACS is a big part of almost everything Jordan does as it provides a usable interface to virtually everything. His favorite distro is Debian stable. He likes PHP, especially the enhancements they have made in the 5.3.x series. He prefers git for source control. He likes the CakePHP framework. He likes JQuery. He uses VirtualBox when he has to fire up other OSes to verify browser compatibility. His preferred NoSQL database is Riak.

Jordan told us how busy with work he has been lately and how he stayed up until 3AM last night working on a critical project that isn't finished yet... and that he will probably be up until 3AM again tonight. We decided to give him a break and end the meeting relatively early (9:20ish) so he could get back to work... and thanked him. I gave him a copy of the three-part PBS series from 1997 entitled Triumph of the Nerds as a gift for presenting... although I don't know when he is going to have time to watch it.

For next month Jordan has volunteered to do another presentation. The potential topics are:

  1. An Introduction to LISP programming with Racket
  2. Doing everything with EMACS
  3. An Introduction to source code management with GIT

Any of those sound good to me. Does anyone have a preference?