SouthEast LinuxFest Roundup #SELF2015

First and foremost, I must apologize as I’ve given no love to my blog in almost a year. I’ve had many major personal and work events happen, and honestly, have just not had the motivation to write. Nonetheless, I just got back from the SouthEast LinuxFest, #SELF2015, and it was phenomenal; it has definitely reinvigorated me.

Normally, as a consultant and sales engineer, which are the roles I’ve mainly filled over the last four years, I attend many corporate ran conferences, such as O’Reilly Strata and Velocity, and to a lesser extent, events like ChefConf. Don’t get me wrong, these events are enjoyable and informative. However, to get to a conference like SELF or a DevOpsDays where you are talking to the folks that are in the trenches, and they are sharing valuable, useful, operational info with you, it’s truly what the open source and DevOps movements are all about. If you work in the tech field, specifically in FOSS and/or DevOps, and you’re feeling down about your job, get to one of these conferences; it will definitely breath new life into you.

Like all good conferences, there were just too many sessions to be able to attend, so I’ll hit the highlights of the ones I enjoyed most. First, “Puppy Linux Deconstructed” by J.T. Pennington. Puppy Linux is a minimal Linux distro, specifically targeted at older hardware. I personally think it’s ideal for embedded systems as well. JT is a great speaker and a hands-on kind of guy. He did a wonderful job of distinguishing the differentiators of Puppy vs the other Linux distros. You can see his entire presentation here.

Next up, “Open Source is dead” by Tarus Balog. Don’t get your feathers in a ruffle, the name is just for shock factor. Tarus is the project leader for OpenNMS and is a great speaker. I feel that his talk, although it encompassed so much, was about the viability of open source in the commercial world, among other things. You can see his entire preso here.

David Nalley did a great presentation on “The Tragedy of Open Source.” This presentation really lays out the need for the open source community to step up and support the many projects that are out there. He pushes for those of us that work in companies leveraging open source to give back to the community. This is a solemn, but incredible, talk. Please watch it.

Ruth Suehle and Tom Callaway put on a very entertaining and informative talk about Raspberry Pi hacks. They work with AdaFruit, which deals in all things Arduino and Raspberry Pi. Nonetheless, their session was fun, entertaining, informative, and full of ideas for the Raspberry Pi. If you are a Pi hacker or enthusiast, be sure to watch their talk. Be forewarned, the audio was not great during their session, but it’s still worth watching.

J.T. Pennington once again stepped up and did a session titled, “Ever want to build your own laptop?” So J.T. is a DIY’er to the core; developer on the Puppy Linux project, building his own laptop from scratch, and pulled and rebuilt his car’s transmission prior to coming to SouthEast LinuxFest; which most definitely earned my respect. J.T.’s mission is to build a laptop with a 24 hour battery life. This is a not a project for the faint of heart, nor is it a budget project, however, it’s a very cool thing to do just so you can say you did it. I actually was able to lay my hands on his self-built laptop the night of this preso, and let me tell you, all the components, which the exception of his battery pack, are much smaller than they appear in the presentation. This is a very cool project and one I may take on myself one day. If you are going to undertake such a feat, I would recommend to first buy, and become quite familiar with CAD, a 3d printer, and/or have a friend in a machine shop with access to a CNC machine. Based on what I saw, the case seems to be the big hurdle. See the entire preso here.

Josh Smith came in and gave an update on PC-BSD 10.1. I’ve been a Linux user, specifically Debian, for almost 20 years. However, since the infection of systemd, I’ve become quite disenfranchised with Debian. After Josh’s rundown on PC-BSD, I would say it is now a viable alternative to the Linux desktop. They don’t have the prettiest graphics in the world, but it seems extraordinarily user friendly and feature rich. If you’ve been contemplating a change, go check out his talk.

Last, but not least, I would like to talk about RackSpace. For the record, I love RackSpace, so I may be somewhat biased. When I’m in Austin for work, I visit the RackSpace offices quite often. Additionally, these guys are always hiring, and hire based on technical merit, and not interview responses or words on a page. They had a little contest setup that was quite fun. Basically, you sit down at a Linux terminal, and you have a list of things to fix that are broken. None of them are as simple as they appear. RackSpace does this looking for talent, and I think it’s wonderful; more companies should do this. It kicked my ass. I ended up dead center in the pack. Best score was 11, which no one achieved. There seemed to be a gap in the middle, lots of folks scored 8 – 10, and many with 2 -4, but at the time I sat down, there were no 5s, 6s, or 7s; I remedied that with a score of 6. The challenge was built on CentOS with a lot of focus on MySQL, of which I’ve touched neither in over a decade; I kind of wish it had been on Debian with MongoDB or Cassandra. Nonetheless, it was fun and a great way to find talent.

For those young and or inexperienced Linux users out there, there were many great sessions on basic things like Git, Bash shell scripting, MySQL administration, and others. Please check out those videos if you are trying to get your feet wet.

Obviously, I’m just scratching the surface here. There were over 80 sessions, and I was able to attend a very small sampling, but it was definitely worth my time to go. You can view all the sessions on the SouthEast LinuxFest YouTube channel. I would definitely recommend hitting that up and watching anything you may find interesting. Till next year.

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