LinuxFest NorthWest 2016

Time for another of my increasingly irregular blog posts 🙂

I was at LinuxFest NorthWest 2016 last weekend. I’ve been going to LFNW for several years now, and I look forward to it every year – it’s just a great conference, which has managed to grow to nearly 2000 registrations this year while keeping its community/grassroots feel. The talks are always widely varied and interesting, and there’s a great feeling that you could run into anyone doing anything – I spent an hour or two at the social event talking to a group of college students who run a college radio station entirely on F/OSS, which was awesome.

As always, Jeff Sandys and Jeff Fitzmaurice did a great job setting up and manning the booth, and preparing for the pre-event games night, which has been sponsored by Fedora for the last few years and is now I think bigger than the whole conference used to be six or seven years ago! We had a games theme for the booth this year, and the Super Tux Kart big screen TV setup was a big hit – every time I was at the booth there were at least two people playing. People were also impressed at how easy it is to install Steam on Fedora, which was great.

LFNW is extremely well run for a non-profit volunteer-organized free-to-attend conference (in fact it’s well-run compared to some extremely non-free to attend conferences I’ve been to!) and this year had every talk recorded, so I can give you YouTube links to all the good ones I saw!

On Saturday morning I saw Adam Monsen‘s The command line – a versatile, future-proof computing environment, which was awesome – it’s basically 45 minutes of cool tools and tricks for efficient terminal use. I think everyone learned at least one new thing, it’s absolutely worth watching and you’ll probably find something that’ll make your life easier! Adam’s source and a follow-up blog post are on the talk page.

The infamous Bryan Lunduke gave a new talk, Linux is [censored] Weird, which was a lot of fun but a bit more lightweight than his equally-infamous “Linux sucks” talk series. The highlight of the talk was definitely the Linux-powered cow milking system, though – and the fact that a guy in the audience had done some work on it and had a photo of the admin interface!

Corey Quinn gave an excellent talk called Docker Must Die, which sold me on the basis of the title alone but turned out to be a really tight and extremely well-presented rundown of the inconvenient real-world truths that are skated over by the more hardcore devops evangelists – all the ways in which development is never really quite the same as production, no matter how shiny your containers. Corey’s a funny guy, too. And he wasn’t done yet! He gave another talk on Sunday morning, Terrible Ideas in Git, which covered some really awful things he’s seen people doing with git, and by extension talked about some best practices. Definitely worth watching for anyone collaborating on development projects with git, and again, very well presented.

E. Dunham did a great session called Rust’s Community Automation, which was a really interesting look at how Rust, as a fairly new project backed by an organization with a lot of community experience, has been able to build its community from the ground up in a way that avoids some of the issues older F/OSS communities have experienced, using social tools like a strong code of conduct with clearly defined enforcement and modern tools and process design that really help new community members come on board in a welcoming way without compromising the project’s goals or quality requirements. Definitely recommended for anyone with an interest in community management – lots of great ideas.

Sriram Ramkrishna did a talk called Application sandboxing, which was a kind of overview of xdg-app in terms of what it’s meant to achieve instead of its technical details. It’s great to see people getting the word out on xdg-app, which is probably going to be a big story in the future. I thought the talk was slightly 1.0 and could be fleshed out a bit more in future revisions, but it’s definitely worth a watch if you’re currently thinking “what the hell is this xdg-app thing?”

And of course what was clearly the best talk of the conference was saved for last: my amazing talk on openQA, in which I graciously let some jackwagon called Richard Brown talk for a bit 😉

No, Richard – the openSUSE Chairman, no less – and I did a joint talk, which I really enjoyed. It was mostly Richard’s slide deck, as he already has a pretty polished openQA talk, but we put in a substantial ‘openQA on Fedora’ section and I did the talking for some of the ‘general introduction’ section, since Richard and I are very much on the same page about what the focus of distribution QA should be and how openQA goes a long way to addressing those. We tried to focus too on the ways in which the SUSE and Fedora teams have been collaborating on openQA work. It seems like people really liked to see two distributions working together for the benefit of both, we had lots of feedback to that effect, and I think the talk worked well as an introduction to openQA as well – at least a couple of folks told us afterwards that they were interested in testing it out for their own use. You can find the slides in Richard’s github, and the Fedora slides have notes with links to lots of background info.

The Saturday social event was at the Hotel Bellwether‘s ballroom, which is in a really nice location but is really just a big room – people definitely enjoyed being able to take in the view outside, but I did hear quite a few people saying it was fun in previous years to have some kind of venue (like the Spark Museum to look around while chatting and drinking. It’s a bit tricky for the organizers now, though, as the conference is so big – there are very few venues in Bellingham which can fit everyone in! Still, the appetisers were good and we had nice beer courtesy of Boundary Bay (IIRC). BTW, here’s a PSA: folks, when you go to a conference and the beer is free, that doesn’t mean you can stiff the servers! They’re working late for not a whole ton of money, and for Pete’s sake, you don’t even have to pay for the beer! Tip them.

As is almost an annual tradition by now, after the conference I hung out with the awesome Jakob Perry and Emilie Nouveau, who’ve been involved in organizing the event for years now, and a few of their cohorts. They’re super awesome people and they do a great job on the event. I take the train home on the Sunday evening and there’s always a few hours between the end of the conference and the train leaving, so they’re kind enough when they have the time to drive me to their board game meetup and then drop me at the station later. It’s the one time a year I play board games and I always get killed, but I always have a lot of fun, so if you’re reading this, thanks again folks!

I meant to talk about Fedora 24 Beta and some fun work I’ve been doing lately to get openQA testing FreeIPA (ooh look, stealthy sneak preview!), but the LFNW write-up got longer than I expected, so I’ll leave it here! Stay tuned for those posts next week 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *