Originally Published: Monday, 30 October 2000 Author: Emmett Plant
Published to: featured_articles/Featured Articles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

LUGFest III: Adventure in Simi Valley

What a long, strange trip it's been, and I'm not even home yet! As I finish up this piece in the local Simi Valley Kinko's, I can only hope that you'll read this week's Weekly Feature, a diary of my travels and experiences at LUGFest III, the coolest little community get-together I've ever had the privilege to attend. I had a great time, but read on!

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Philadelphia, 6:20 AM

I'm on a flight out to Chicago, on the way out to my final destination, Los Angeles. The ride is cramped; I decide to leave my laptop in its case. My accordion is stored safely in the overhead compartment. The flight is a short one, compared to others I've had in the past. I lean back in the too-small-for-me seat and try unsuccessfully to sleep.

Chicago, 8:50 AM

I board the flight for Los Angeles. Having pulled away from the gate, the Captain informs us that we'll be on the tarmac for about an hour, and we'll be delayed getting into Los Angeles. I pull out my cellphone and realize that anyone I call on the West Coast will be asleep. My body involuntarily falls asleep. I wake up an hour later, and we're still on the ground, but we're moving. Seconds later the massive plane is wrenched into the sky.I pull out my laptop and try to write. Not happening. I boot into Windows and play Starcraft. Having completed a few missions, I quit out and start to watch a DVD of 'serial experiments Lain,' a great Anime serial. The battery dies three minutes into the film. I shut the system down on the remaining power, and decide to watch the rest of the inflight movie, 'Keeping The Faith,' starring Ben Stiller, Jenna Elfman and Edward Norton. I've seen it before, but it's worth watching again. I try to sleep again, and fail. I open my eyes and see Edward Norton, and think of 'Fight Club.' I fear falling asleep.

Los Angeles, 12:15 PM

I get up from the seat, lift my bag onto the seat, pull my accordion down and sling it over my shoulder. No, I don't play it in a band. No, I don't do polkas. No, I'm not Italian or Polish. No, I really just play for fun. I exit the plane, walk through the corridor. When I get to the gate, there's a big sign being waved. It has my name on it, and a hand-drawn penguin. I think I've found the right people. They introduce themselves. Michelle Klein-Haas and her husband, Richie. We wait a million years for my hideously ugly luggage, and get in the car. On the way to Simi Valley, we stop at a great Armenian chicken place, Zankou Chicken, for lunch. Somewhere between the airport and lunch, 'Daria' is brought up. We talk about Daria all the way to the hotel.

The lovely hotel is the Posada Royale Hotel in Simi Valley. Upon entering the Simi 'city limits,' I'm informed that the movie Poltergeist was inspired by the fact that some houses in Simi Valley were built on native American burial grounds. I'll sleep just fine now, thanks.

I sit in the hotel room and set up my laptop, trying desperately to get networking to function. Not happening. I think the dongle is broken for my PCMCIA NIC. Instead, I opt to call my wife, some people at Linux.com, let them know that I'm here. I realize that I don't have a phone number for anyone at the LUGFest event. I chill out in the room and catch the first half of The Simpsons. It's the episode where Sideshow Bob's brother Cecil attempts to destroy Springfield. It's a good one.

Around seven, there's a message on my phone from 'Hostile' Joe Arruda, wondering where I am, and telling me to call him back. I write the number down and put it in the speed-dial of my telephone under the name 'Hostile.' Moments later, before I have a chance to call Joe, Gareth Greenaway, Fearless Leader of this whole LUGFest she-bang, comes to my door. I invite him in. I wasn't aware he had a team of seven with him. So, we chit-chat, and I meet the incredibly sarcastic Alex Guy. I like him already. We try to decide what to do, and head across the street to eat. The place is packed. Guess who's at the bar? Carsten 'Rasterman' Haitzler, Joe Arruda and Simon 'Hormes' Horman. We chill out for a bit, and meet up with the rest of the LUGFolk at a Chili's up the street, where I have real food for the first time in about 48 hours. It's kind of odd; LUG folks at one table, VA folks at the other, because we came late. I'd make a reference to the traditional Thanksgiving 'kids' table, but I wouldn't know who the kids would be.

We split from Chili's, make plans to meet up in the morning for breakfast and head over to the LUGFest. It'll be a bagel at 8:45 in the morning. 'Hostile' and I are rooming together, and he's playing some good music on his laptop. Neither of us have checked our mail yet, and I just don't think we're in a big hurry. It's a good idea to get out of the office once in a while, and both of us get massive amounts of E-mail. I think I need a day away from it. Honestly, I'd rather chat on IRC right now than reply to E-mail. Tomorrow morning, I'll deal with the deluge. Tonight, I'll just relax, listen to good music and talk about random stuff with Joe. Joe and I are friends, so rooming together is no problem. One of the neat things about this community is that tradeshows and community events aren't just cool ways to get in touch, but to see the big group of friends you have that live on the other side of the country. Joe lives in Santa Clara, I live in Philadelphia. He's a self-defined 'true Silicon Valley brat.' He was born in Silicon Valley before it was Silicon Valley. I'll keep my distance in the land of liberty and cheesesteaks, thanks.

UCLA Conference Room, 10:40 AM

Breakfast never happened. The main drag of the conference, the big demo room, is actually a converted cafeteria. I'm told that it will officially open at 11am, in twenty minutes. I'm starving. I need food and caffeine. Early this morning, I was wearing a T-shirt and shorts, and I turned to Joe for fashion advice. "Collared shirt, or Loki jersey?" "Loki jersey." So, I'll be wearing my Loki jersey for my keynote presentation in just under two hours.

I was standing outside when the car full of Loki people, including Linux.com writer Ryan Gordon, showed up. Ryan informed me of the impossible. His father has finally dissolved his business and gotten a real job. I think the world may end soon. The Loki guys set up their machines while Stephane and I went to play some foosball. I'd say we're about even in skill, although I do have a tendency to do the standard American 'spin the guys as fast I can' thing. I think it's cool that there's a foosball table at Nortel that you can play for free. That's just all kinds of goodness.

The planners are running around, getting things ready for the show. I'm actually sitting in the room where I'll be giving my keynote, and it's totally wired with very sensitive microphones. I was playing the accordion earlier, and the sound was amplified from this room to speakers outside in the hallway. Anyway, they're running around, but here's something strange - They're prepared and ready. These guys know what they're doing. They're better organized than the LinuxWorld Expos. Everyone's got computers and monitors to bring in to show demos, and these guys stand, waiting with carts to help you with them. Incredible organization. I wonder what these guys would do with a longer show, maybe a two-day event. I've been to a lot of conferences, LUG meetings, tradeshows... This has got to be one of the best-organized shindigs I've ever had the pleasure to attend. And the show hasn't even started yet.

I still haven't checked my E-mail. There's a little bit of network weirdness, but I think it'll be sorted out soon. I'll probably wait until after my keynote to check my mail. Then again, there could be an E-mail from someone that says, 'Don't do the keynote, someone will try to kill you,' but I guess I've got to take that risk. Working with Linux means learning to live dangerously.

Nortel Cafeteria, 12:00pm

It's time. All the planning that has been done by the LUGFest organizers has finally come to fruition. There aren't too many people here yet, I would say about fifty. I cut out to the conference room where I'll be giving my keynote in 30 minutes and work on my laptop for a little bit. The sound guy comes in and puts some music aside for me to use, and seconds later, Joey DeVilla shows up in the room with his accordion. The choice is clear; start the keynote with an accordion duet of 'Born To Be Wild.'

My keynote begins, and it was later described as a 'full-contact keynote.' My speaking style is very tangential, but easy-to-follow. I get my message across in sixty minutes or less. A few questions, and we wrap up at around 1:30.

I come out of the keynote, and I walk into the main drag of the LUGFest again. It's alive. There's at least two hundred people walking around, milling about, and talking. Here's the interesting thing. At a big tradeshow, it's usually people at booths talking at people who happen by. Not with, but at. They're there to sell their product, introduce their idea, whatever. They'll come at you throwing free stuff to get just a couple seconds of your time. This is not the case at LUGFest. Exhibitors are talking to other exhibitors. Attendees are talking to attendees. The line between 'customer' and 'product sales' is erased. It was a shining example of the community spirit in the Linux 'industry.' People are eating, laughing and discussing everything from storage to games. It's a beautiful, beautiful thing. One of the exhibitors had a great sign on his laptop that says, 'I apologize for the use of Microsoft. This is my VP's machine and they never learn. And yes, he wants to keep the stickers on.'

Throughout the rest of the too-short afternoon, the spirit lives on. Attendees who had only planned to stop by for an hour manage to clear their schedules and stay for the rest of the day. Exhibitors step away from their areas and play Quake at the Loki booth. Instead of the standard 'booth' at big tradeshows, the people putting demos together are lumped together on long, long tables, building a community through architecture.

The Loki guys are right next to the VMware guy, and make short work of the candy he brought with him. People grab VMware promotional items while chatting it up with the Loki guys. Desktop users of all types, exhibitor and attendee, corner Carsten 'Rasterman' Haitzler while they're watching the new Enlightenment canvas program demo itself on a big screen. Attendees and exhibitors alike 'ooh' and 'aah' over the super-small Linux server from Linux beach. While all of this is happening, there are raffles every 30 minutes for cool things donated to the LUGFest organizers, from T-shirts to old SGI hardware.

Right outside the main drag of the show, I join Richie Haas, Joey DeVilla and Alex Guy for a little jamming. Two accordions, an acoustic guitar, and a portable electric make an interesting little band. We play AC/DC, They Might Be Giants, Tom Waits and Metallica for the smoking attendees who come out for a little air. In between songs, we talk about PDA's, server hardware and the Linux community-at-large.

Here's the 'LeVar Burton' section of this story, where I tell you what other people had to say about LUGFest III. I thought it was great; but don't take my word for it?

Ken Park:

"I really liked the free things they were giving away, and I liked the games and the graphics."

Daniel Morales from MandrakeSoft:

"It was very good, I liked it. This is the first time that we are showing Mandrake Linux 7.2 in a public setting. We got very good feedback from the community. It was also very good to hear the other speakers and to see many Linux newbies coming here to check what Linux is all about."

Clay Claiborne from Cosmos Engineering:

"I like the show, it's the best show we have in LA, but it takes place on the edge of the world."

Joey DeVilla, 'Master Of Kode-Fu' for OpenCOLA:

"Charming. It had a nice homey feel, that early OS gatherings tend to have, which is wonderful since Linux conferences now are so huge, and it's hard to talk to people."

Gale Pedowitz, Smalltalk hacker:

"Very small and cozy. It was good to see developers connecting with the user community at large. One felt very much in the thick of things. Oh, I'm no good at quotes. I'm not a quote server. Hey! You're not supposed to write that!"

Simi Valley Kinko's, 7:20pm on Sunday, October 29th

Having never found the networking necessary, I'm sitting in a Simi Valley Kinko's, finishing this article. My flight leaves at 11:45 from Los Angeles; I should be back in Philadelphia at 9:40 in the morning. If I don't get any sleep on these flights, I'll be upset. I'll be leaving Simi Valley with a smile on my face. In the age of the mega-tradeshow and the rush to get things done, press releases released and software finished, LUGFest III was a shining star on the horizon. Wall Street and the money influx of the Linux business sector hasn't killed the Linux community spirit. No one paid to get in, but what they took home was priceless. They got to see the Linux community at its best. I look forward to next year.





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