Ohio LinuxFest 2006 Wrap-Up


The Ohio LinuxFest 2006 was a complete success!

Owen arrived in Columbus right around 5 PM. I took him for a tour of The Ohio State University main campus. He refused to believe me when I told him that Orton Hall was famous for the different types of Ohio rock used to construct it. After OSU, we took a quick driving tour around Columbus, where Owen refused to believe any of the history I provided about the various communities and suburbs.

We had at dinner at The Blue Danube, and then a few drinks at O’Reilly’s, so that he could have a real connnection to these places about which I’ve been writing lately. Rich (aka DrBacchus) joined us shortly after 10 PM, and introductions were made. Owen retired early for the night, while Rich and I headed down to the pre-conference party. This was winding down when we arrived, so we stayed only long enough for me to put faces to the names of the other folks I’d worked with on the OLF planning team. Rich and I called it a night shortly after this.

I was in charge of the check-in process this year, so I was expected to arrive well before the 8 AM opening. Rich and I picked up Owen, grabbed a drive-through breakfast, and made it into the convention center just a little after 7:30 AM Saturday morning. The other event organizers were, unbeknownst to me, sweating bullets that I was tardy. Last year, we used desktop PCs with monitors for the check-in stations. I was the one saddled with tearing these down and unloading them (by myself!) after the show. That sucked. So this year I encouraged all the check-in volunteers to bring their own laptops for use during their shift at the check-in desk. I brought two laptops of my own for use by those folks lacking laptops. I had coordinated all of this with the volunteers, but had completely forgotten to report any of this back to the planning team! So when I sauntered in Saturday morning, sans desktop PCs, they were all crestfallen and convinced that there was no way we’d get the check-in stations functional in the time before the doors officially opened (and indeed, there were already a dozen people milling about waiting to check in!).

To everyone’s delight, the laptops were deployed, volunteers stationed, and the check-in started at 8:01, only one minute late. They ran non-stop for the next two hours, and remained fairly steady all the way through lunch. Folks continued to check-in all the way up until I closed the last laptop sometime around 4 PM. This year, we had over 1,600 folks register on the website, and we checked in almost 1,050 people at the desk! We had no serious problems with the check-in process, other than a few folks who registered on the website but weren’t in the database. All of the check-in volunteers did a superb job, and I’m really pleased to have had the opportunity to meet and work with all of them! Thanks a lot, folks!!

Owen was introduced to Chris, completing the IRC-to-real-life introductions for the weekend.

The schedule for the day’s events suffered a few major shake-ups. First, Jeff Waugh was scheduled to provide the morning keynote but his flight was delayed. Chris DiBona was elevated to the morning keynote. I missed most of this, as I was still checking attendees in, but I’m told it was pretty good. Jorge Castro gave a good presentation about his work integrating GNU/Linux into a Windows ActiveDirectory environment – something I’ll soon be doing at work, so I was extremely interested in his comments.

Rich’s presentation, “20 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do with Apache”, was excellent. He started off by encouraging all of us to say loudly and contemptuously ‘I already knew that!’ if we knew any of the items in his presentation, which garned a lot of laughs from the audience. The audience, by the way, was huge, and one of the more well-attended non-keynote presentations. Rich’s presentation was quick-paced, and thoroughly informative. I knew the first handful of items on his list, to which I loudly and contemptuously said ‘I already knew that!’, but by item number four or five I was too busy learning to try to continue to be a smart-aleck. Almost all of the items in Rich’s presentation were things that were genuinely usable, which surprised me: I figured he’d have to cheat a little bit by including some less-than-useful things. I suppose, in all fairness, mod_pop3 is ultimately less-than-useful, but it was still something about Apache that I didn’t know!

We took lunch again this year in the Pope Room at Bucca di Beppo. We had a thoroughly geeky and entertaining lunch, and I think our entire party had a great time. After lunch I attended Zonker’s “Are You Linux Compatible” presentation, while almost everyone else went to watch Jeff Waugh’s re-scheduled presentation. I’m not sure if he did the same presentation he had originally planned, or not. Zonker’s was a good presentation, and I’m glad I attended it – it was a very down-to-earth and practical evaluation of when and how to advocate GNU/Linux.

Last year, Michael Harrington was scheduled to present on Free Software in the realm of law enforcement, and a lot of people were eager for his presentation. Unfortunately, he had to cancel. We booked him to present again this year, knowing there was such a huge interest in his remarks. Alas, he again failed to attend! I heard several competing rumors/explanations as to why, but I don’t know than any of them really matter. The room was packed. Rich stepped in to present his “Introduction to mod_rewrite” as a backup presentation, and two thirds of the room left. I stuck around for the first few minutes, but also left since I’d seen this presentation last year. Instead I helped operate the check-in table for the late-comers (of which there were surprisingly more than I would have expected!).

I skipped the next set of presentations, too. During these, it was announced to me that another presenter couldn’t attend, so we needed to find yet another back-up presentation. One was found, and after much horsing around (and a trip to Kinko’s) everything was settled. Shortly after this, it was rumored that the penguins coming from the Columbus Zoo hadn’t yet arrived. There was much hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth, but finally the penguins did arrive, and in time for their moment in the spotlight. This was surprisingly more interesting than I would have expected. The penguins were very, very cute, and their handler shared a lot of great information about them. A few questions from the audience crossed well into the ridiculous, but the handler kept his cool and did his best to go with the flow.

Finally, maddog’s closing keynote was made. This was, in hindsight, a little more “preaching to the choir” than I expected based on the abstract he submitted, but it was still a pretty good speech.

I took the out-of-towners to The Blue Danube for dinner (sorry about that, Owen!), and then we split up: Chris and his ride driving back to Kentucky, and the rest of us making our way to the after-conference party. We arrived just in time for the prize drawing, which took entirely too long because there were far more tickets in the jar than people present to win them. Finally the prizes were distributed and the hob-knobbing resumed. We went upstairs to the “conference suite” reserved for attendees who purchased the “All Conference Pass”. The room was filled with sugary and salty junk food, sodas, and other geek fare.

A few guys from my LUG were sitting around a table playing a card game called Fluxx. I watched a few rounds, and scoffed at the complexity: literally the rules of the game can change with every card played. I finally decided to sit in on a hand, just to see if I could figure it out. I was hooked instantly: it’s an insanely fun party game! I cajoled Owen and Rich to join me, and we played for about an hour. We had an absolutely wonderful time, laughing at the absurdity of forced random playing, groaning as the rules became more complicated, and shouting at one another as we played cards that further complicated the game! I can’t wait to purchase my own copy and invite some friends over for an evening of mayhem!

Exhaustion finally set in, so I took everyone home and quickly fell asleep. Sunday morning I treated everyone to breakfast at Nancy’s Kitchen, with Carina and the twins. Breakfast was yummy as usual. And then it was all over, and everyone drove home.

I had a wonderful time, as usual, and I’m really looking forward to doing it all again next year!

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