Southeast Linux Fest 2009

I was fortunate to be able to attend the first ever Southeast Linux Fest (SELF) in Clemson, SC this last Saturday. I arrived bleary-eyed and smiling after a 2.5 hour drive early that morning, not entirely sure what to expect, both as a Linux fest (my first time) and as a fest in general (their first time). It was fantastic on all accounts. There were some really great speakers on a variety of topics. Just to highlight a few:

  • Wendy Seltzer gave a great talk on DMCA, DRM, copywrongright being extended to lifetime of an author +70 years, and a number of other ideas that should be loaded onto a rocket and shot into the sun. This kind of stuff is a pet peev of mine. For more information on this topic try googling "Cory Doctorow DRM" and check out Chilling Effects for more information about your rights.
  • Brian Leonard gave a good talk that was mostly about VirtualBox but included some OpenSolaris goodies (ZFS and dtrace me wantz!). As a longtime VirtualBox user I can't recommend it enough for desktop virtualization. I might have to run OpenSolaris in Virtualbox to play around with it.
  • Ryan "Icculus" Gordon gave a good talk on Linux gaming. If you ever get a chance to see him talk, do it. He didn't show a single slide and the audience was riveted for an entire hour. Gaming has always been one of those things you end up dual-booting Windows for, but there's quite a bit going on in Linux gaming these days.
  • Richard Wealt gave a great talk on Open Street Map (OSM). OSM has had ~125,000 contributors, and both the number of contributors and the size of the database doubles every 6 months. In many cases the OSM data is better than commercial offerings, and the OSM license is extremely generous, even allowing the resale of the data in map products. To get started, just register for an account and start editing. It's a fantastic project and I'm glad it's having so much success.
  • D. Richard Hipp, the designer of SQLite, gave a really interesting talk on both SQLite and the problems with atomic commits and fsync() calls, how memory buffering works in Linux, Firefox problems in the 3 beta series, and some kernel hacks in the .30 kernel to handle badly written fopen() operations with things like ext4 where fsync() can be delayed 1-2 minutes (vs ext3's 5 seconds). A lot of the talk went sailing over my head, but I learned quite a bit and it put a lot of the discourse I've been hearing about ext4 in perspective. And I'm glad my ext4 home machine is sitting on a UPS :).
  • I listened to a great talk by Semmy Purewal and someone else whose name I can't find (my apologies!) about community technology services with Linux. A lot of people are doing fantastic work repurposing old hardware with Linux and providing technology services to needy in the community. Check out Free IT Athens for more information.
  • The ending keynote by Paul Frields was about Fedora. He was so passionate about Fedora I almost felt badly for never having run it (I'm generally on various debian based derivatives). Although I can't say I've tried it yet, I can tell you Fedora has one heck of a community behind it.
All in all it was a great day. I particularly liked the fest fee arrangement - you could register for free or you had the option of being a paid sponsor for $50 (that also netted you a t-shirt). What a great idea - it lets anyone that has any interest in the community attend regardless of their financial situation, while having an easy option for people to contribute if they have the means. Congrats to the Clemson LUG for all the hard work put in. If you missed it this year, I highly advise keeping an eye out for the SELF conference next year.