Review: Utah Open Source Conference 2009
This was my first year attending the Utah Open Source Conference. I was lucky enough to have Warren Sanders and Andrew Niemantsverdriet (both from the BillingsLUG) go with me and help staff the OpenVZ booth. I'm very thankful to Warren for providing transportation and doing all of the driving.
The weather cooperated and the 413 miles from Belgrade to Salt Lake City went quite smoothly. Warren and Andrew had an additional 150 miles from Billings to Belgrade. We left Belgrade about 11AM and arrived at the hotel in Sandy, Utah about 6PM.
We stayed at the official hotel for the conference which was the Residence Inn and the official special event price was $89 a night. I must say the accommodations were excellent with a full kitchen, king size bed, and pull out couch. All three of us stayed in the same room so Warren and Andrew had to put up with my snoring and funny smells.
UTOSC was held at the Miller Campus of the Salt Lake Community College. It was odd because we took up a fairly large building while school was in session but didn't seem to conflict with any students / classes. I wonder if they just have that building for such events?!? The auditorium for the keynotes was huge. The exhibit area was very nice but they had a serious issue with uncovered glass and the sun shining in making much of the booth space basically unusable in the first hour and a half in the morning. They really needed some sort of glare shading for the primary exhibit area.
The classrooms used for the presentations were very modern and roomy, each had a smart podium with a projector although some rooms were better than others.
I got an email before the show stating that each room would have a room monitor staff who would assist the presenters with hooking up to the projectors, facilitate either the video or audio recording in the room, introduce the presenter to the audience, and tell the presenters when they were near the end of their time. Sounds awesome, right? Well, in many cases it was BUT from what I heard many presenters had technical difficulties and a significant number of presentations started late as a result. I've been to a number of shows in the last few years and this seems to always be the case. Why is that? You'd think people would have their stuff together now. Presenters should go to the rooms early and test out their laptops before their presentations rather than waiting 5 minutes before they are supposed to start. Argh.
The event had a number of high quality presentations scheduled. Just check out the schedule. I'll also attach a PDF version of the schedule to this blog posting.
I had to staff the OpenVZ booth so I wasn't free to see too many presentations. There were three of us and we decided to keep at least one person at the booth at all times so that any two could go to some of the presentations.
I like how they had the presentations spread out and while there was some overlapping content it was no where near as bad as some other shows I've been to. Most attendees could see a significant percentage of the content if they were so inclined.
According to the exhibits page on their site, there were 15 exhibitors. I actually think there were a few more than that. As previously mentioned there was definitely an issue with the sunlight in the primary exhibit area in the first hour and a half.
There was quite a bit of swag to go around so I grabbed quite a bit of it intending to hand it out to my fellow LUG members at the next BozemanLUG meeting.
As an exhibitor I must credit the venue with having both nice wired Internet access as well as wireless Internet access. They had a cable for each booth as well as a sheet with wireless access information. They really did not allow outside wireless access points and in fact their system was set up to detect such devices and once discovered, launch a denial of service attack on them to try and take them out. Unfortunately there were some innocent bystanders who suffered... the Fedora booth had three One Laptop Per Child XO units on display... and they were seen as rogue wireless access points and bombarded with traffic trying to disable them. I believe the Fedora guys just disabled the wireless on the OLPCs to make the system happy.
I was manning the OpenVZ booth which happened to be between the Fedora booth and the Gnome project booth... so I talked with those folks quite a bit. One of the Gnome guys said he could give the OpenVZ sales pitch himself because he had heard me repeat it so many times. As time permitted I visited with each booth. The tables were a little small but adequate. We had brought a lot of hardware (two desktop tower systems, two 19" flat-panel montiors, and three laptops) and we had three people... and we were able to fit it all nicely in our display space... although it was a little cramped.
One really cool piece of hardware on display was an open source (both hardware and software) video camera that took very high resolution / quality video by a company named Elphel. The video camera was very small but offered a number of ports: 1) Ethernet, 2) USB, and 3) eSATA. They also offered a number of different lenses. Elphel also had a large RV in the parking lot with their company name and a fairly large booth. They said the cameras started at $800 but were totally modifiable and the source for the embedded software was available. They also claimed that Google uses their cameras in their street view setups.
The guys at the Gnome booth had a web camera setup and were running Cheese to take a picture of each (willing) person who visited their booth. They even got us OpenVZ guys together for a group shot.
The ClearOS folks had a big, fancy booth. It used to be ClarkConnect. They were giving out bottled water with their own labeling on it.
The Fedora guys had a lot of swag to give away... so I did my duty and helped them get rid of some of it. I even got a tee-shirt with a really cool design on it (done by Ian Weller). It was really cool to meet Paul Frields who is the Fedora Project Manager.
On Thursday night we attended the Ignite Salt Lake 'Greatest Hits' event in the auditorium. It was a collection of 5 minute presentations on various topics and all of them were very interesting. They video recorded them all so I assume they will appear online at some point. See also the schedule and pictures from the event.
Friday night there was a dinner at Spaghetti Mama's and we attended that although we didn't have the free dinner coupons they did give us a couple of free drink coupons which we used.
Saturday afternoon I participated in an event for the kids... creating paper airplanes and throwing them off of the second floor balcony into the exhibitor space. That was fun.
The OpenVZ Booth and my presentation
The booth worked out very well but I must admit that the amount of foot traffic through the exhibit area was quite sparse. It seemed that a significant amount of booth visitors were either staff, presenters, or other exhibitors. Where were all of the attendees? I'm sure there were quite a few but there was plenty of room for double or triple the amount of visitors. I was a little disappointed by what I perceived as the attendance numbers. I wonder what the final attendance numbers were?
My presentation was in a reasonably large classroom and I only had a few empty chairs so I can't really complain about the attendance. What was weird though is that I did not have a classroom monitor and as a result no one educated me about the audio recording hardware in the room... so my presentation did NOT get recorded. I'm not sure what happened there. My guess would be that they were more interested in recording local people/companies and perhaps I didn't qualify. In any event, I brought along my own video camera and Warren manned it to record my presentation. I got to the classroom about an hour early to get everything setup and my laptop didn't have any problems with the projector at all. It worked out quite well.
Suggestions for next year
Overall I really enjoyed the event. I only have a few suggestions:
- Get some window coverings in the exhibit area so that the mornings are workable
- Post a schedule outside of each classroom showing the presentations scheduled for that room
- Work with presenters more and try and force them to try out their laptops with the projectors sooner to avoid technical problems at the last minute
- If at all possible, find a more sponsors so that the event can be truely free of cost
The event was a lot of fun... but it was different than any other event I've been to because it was three days and it ran from 9AM to 9PM. We had to leave early on Saturday because we had heard the roads were bad and Andrew needed to be home Sunday. I wish we could have stayed all day Saturday.
I'd definitely like to attend next year and hope some of the issues I mentioned are addressed.
I'd really like to thank Clint Savage who went out of his way to ensure we could attend.
I'm really looking forward to seeing the video recordings of a lot of the presentations I missed and hope they are made available online ASAP.