Setup of the table couldn't have gone smoother. Kudos to the Fedora Event Kit for making it so easy. The hardest part was finding somewhere where we could get electricity, and as it turns out, our booth ended up right at the entrance to the hall we had available. I love it when Fedora is the first thing that people see at a conference or show. Once we had our location picked, getting started was just a matter of getting our posters up on the wall and the two OLPCs set up and running, along side Jon's laptop running Fedora 10 Snap 2.
The original plan was to get 100 units of media to hand out with everyone's welcome packet. When i got my welcome packet, i was worried that Anteil, a local company had upstaged us there, with a complete portfolio, marketing materials and Anteil branded USB stick. To my complete surprise, one of Anteil's employees is a big Fedora fan, and put persistent Fedora on all those sticks ahead of time! Our media was useless, because of someone else's generosity. I want to thank everyone at Anteil for supporting us so much; we really value this.
I got the chance to see a few presentations. They mainly went along the lines of, 'look, here's something cool I can do with FOSS in the workspace." There were presentations on using puppet to manage email systems, using PExpect to manage over 10,000 units of Cisco hardware, one guy gave a presentation on a few cool things he liked about git, and so on. I think the highlight of the presentations was when Chris Moats wiped the first 10MB of a CentOS box that was a wireless router to the room we were in. As he gave his presentation, cobbler and puppet reinstalled and reconfigured the server in the background in 15 minutes, without a single bit of effort on his part.
Although i didn't plan on speaking, Jon Stanley and i held a BOF session on the OLPC. We had yet more problems, as usual, getting mesh networking to work. The laptops are incredibly finicky at shows, unfortunately. We started off with some QA on the laptops, while I made sure they circulated the room and let people get a chance to play with them. Once again, when i had the chance to visit the OLPC lab in Boston last summer as part of my Red Hat internship, the experience was invaluable. It's so much easier to talk about the XOs despite not being a developer, when i actually know what i'm talking about.
One of the guys there brought up an interesting issue though. He was considering buying his niece an XO last spring during the G1G1 program. Unfortunately, his niece is exposed regularly to 'those other established Redmond and Bay Area operating systems'. If he got this laptop for his niece, how would she be able to participate in the real value of the OLPC? Most of that value lies in there being a mesh network of kids all with laptops available. In a world of beige and brushed aluminum boxen, though, she'd be pretty isolated with her green and white system. How are we going to get the incoming computer users integrated into the world as a whole, once we give them the XO laptops? The conversation moved quickly to integrating people using any Linux system in a commercially dominant world.
I noticed very little talk about distros. I got a few grumbles about how much Spacewalk/Satellite sucks, but except in some practical conversations, there was absolutely no discussion of Fedora vs. LTS, nor Fedora vs. Ubuntu vs. SuSE vs. Flavor Of The Month. Overall though, i did see a few Fedora laptops, although there were quite a few Apple laptops there too. Pennsylvania is a state, though, where there are people living there with some very widely conflicting views, politically, socially, and religiously. It's good to know that we all know how to get along with each other when we do have some common goals.
One fact I had to stress to a few people is this. The Fedora Infrastructure stack is as Open Source as it gets. Launchpad and Github are not open source the way we are open source. The goal of Fedora Infrastructure is to have a stack of applications that anyone can redeploy on their own. While it's a conversation for another day, webapps present a huge threat to Open Source. One thing that Fedora Ambassadors might want to consider talking about more is this: Fedora is 100% open source, including our Web Applications, Infrastructure, and Know-How. What other distribution or open source supporter can claim the same?
One of the companies here, Anteil, really gets Open Source. Jim Capp, the CEO told me that he is very open minded about which distros are used inside the company, and they really try to focus on supporting what ever the customer asks for, and not just what the technicians like. Even so, he said many of the customers ask for Red Hat over everything else. If anyone doubts the value that Red Hat brings to Linux, it's certainly not Anteil or their customers.
Jim and i also talked about plans to get Fedora and CentOS into some of the university laboratories in Harrisburg, and that the faculty there seems fairly open to the idea for now. He's really interested in being able to focus on the philanthropic side of Open Source, and not just the day to day business side. It's a great feeling to know that Open Source is so well represented in Central PA.
Finally, I was wondering what was so special about CPOSC that David Nalley told me last summer, "Yaakov, we have to get some Fedora Ambassadors to CPOSC". Right now Linux doesn't hold a very dominant presence in PA at all, other than local companies that provide and service it. Looking at the future recession, service industries always fare off better than production industries, and Linux and Open Source are positioned well to succeed quite nicely. PA is known for its service industry, and so far Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania have done better than most with the looming recession. Central PA is a great area to get involved with Open Source on a grassroots level. Everyone I met there understood the value of Open Source, and knew why they were there. It's been a pleasure getting a chance to meet everyone there.