scale12xDecompression can be a killer. A thousand pardons for taking so long to post about it, but the Southern California Linux Expo SCALE 12X was nothing short of fantastic on a variety of levels.

No, that’s not hyperbole.

Lawrence Lessig absolutely nailed it in the Friday night keynote. Don’t take my word for it — watch the keynote on the SCALE 12X site here. Also, Lessig is going to need a little help fixing the government, so if you’re so inclined just send an email to SCALE@lessig.org with a description of the sort of commitment/skills you can offer, and if helpful, a description of your background.

The rest was, frankly, a well-choreographed blur of 90 or so talks over three days, punctuated by two days of exhibits with around 100 exhibitors and whirlwind of volunteers who rhetorically knocked it out of the park.

If you were there and want to relate your experience, go for it in the comments.

But back to the “knocking it out of the park” thing, it inspires complete and utter awe how much this show improves every year. It all boils down to one question.

What makes a great show like SCALE 12X?

Everyone: The volunteers, the staff, the speakers, the exhibitors and the sponsors. But most importantly, the attendees tie the ribbon on a fantastic expo, making it the complete and wonderful package it is.

The final tally: There was an uptick of roughly 10 percent in registrations for SCALE 12X, with a new record number of people enjoying three days of presentations, workshops and exhibits.

It was great to see old friends and to meet those I have talked to on numerous occasions but finally got to meet in person: Leslie Hawthorn, whose outstanding keynote was SRO, and Steven Rosenberg of the L.A. Daily News, who gave us a pre-show story in the Daily News’ constellation of Southern California publications.

[Yes, I compared SCALE 12X to the Daytona 500 in that article — an afterthought that the press picked up (shame on me — I should know better). But the comparison is a valid one: Like NASCAR holding its biggest race first, so FOSS also holds its most important event at the beginning of the year.]

As the publicity chair, the Publicity Team fired on all cylinders for the entire weekend: Hannah Anderson, who handled social media and floor interview duties as if she was born to do these things, kept everyone informed, and a team of photographers and videographers — Dennis Rex, Michelle Klein-Hass, Sam Is, and Sean McCabe — kept the photos and videos flowing throughout the show.

Graphics: Mike Hamanaka and Josh Adler did a fantastic job in the graphics department — Mike with the signage, badges and stickers, and Josh with the publications and T-shirt design. I got a lot of comments on these during the course of the show and it bears special mention.

Again, I would stress that if anyone has any of their own tales of SCALE 12X they’d like to share, please post them in the comments. As for me, I was stuck marshalling the media forces in the press room for a better part of the show and I got most news second- and third-hand, so some first-hand accounts would be appreciated.

One more thing: As I mentioned in a previous item, ZaReason gave me an UltraLap 440 to review right around the time SCALE 12X was happening, so the laptop got a baptism by fire, sort of, at the show. I am still in the process of giving it a month-long, long-term road test, so to speak, and I should point out that at the show, the laptop performed flawlessly as my main machine. More on this will be detailed in an upcoming review.

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Fosstafarian by and other works by Larry Cafiero are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

One more week

scale12xOK, I could pun it up here: “I was weighed down by SCALE,” or some other eye-rolling line to explain why I haven’t written all week. The fact of the matter is that I have been swamped with work on what may end up being the best show yet for the Southern California Linux Expo SCALE 12X.

No, that’s not hyperbole. And as scary as this prospect might be, I really need more than one of me to do the press work for SCALE 12X, which starts next week.

I’m going to need a bigger boat.

Why? Lawrence Lessig is coming to speak in the Friday night keynote. That’s right: A Friday night keynote to augment the Saturday morning kenote by Brendan Gregg and the Sunday morning keynote by Leslie Hawthorn. There aren’t three speakers who are better suited for a FOSS gathering than that trio.

That alone doesn’t address the great range of speakers throughout the course of the three days.

So I’ve been a little busy stoking the publicity fires for SCALE this year. You need to come — three days, more than 90 speakers, more than 100 exhibitors. All that equals one great event.

Also, this will be a test show this year as well. ZaReason has sent me an UltraLap 440 and I am going to put it through its paces for the show, writing about it here from time to time. I’ve already replaced Ubuntu 13.10 — what a surprise — on the UltraLap with Korora 20 KDE Peach. There’s a good chance CrunchBang will happen upon the UltraLap soon as well. Heck, my daughter Mimi will probably purloin the laptop somewhere along the line and install the latest Linux Mint Cinnamon version, which is her favorite flavor.

[Insert Neil Young joke here: She is my Cinnamon Girl — I could be happy the rest of my life with a Cinnamon Girl. OK, I was just leaving.]

All of which is to say that while I have sort of been absent last week, expect for me to make up for it going forward with reports from SCALE.

You have been warned.

See you at SCALE 12X.

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Fosstafarian by and other works by Larry Cafiero are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Falling far from the tree

scale12xThis week, on the 30th anniversary of the unleashing of the Macintosh to the world, I’m going to go far afield and talk about Macs and how I got to Linux through them.

A little history (OK, a lot of history): My exposure to Apple goes back to the early 1980s. While working as a copywriter for Spillis Candela and Partners in Coral Gables, Fla., I worked on a Lisa to produce federal documents for public projects.

Later — and many have already heard this story, so forgive me in advance — I plopped down nearly $3,000 for an “on-sale” package of an Apple //c (not IIc) and a Brother daisy-wheel printer. I’ll let that sink in for a minute — $3,000 buys how much tech these days? — while I compose myself and wipe away the tears.

I had a Mac in the mid-’80s. I’ve had several Macs. Having a Mac in the ’80s was not the status toy it is today. Having a Mac was a statement, like the woman in the 1984 ad throwing the sledgehammer into the telescreen. It was pretty much a middle finger extended to both IBM and Microsoft long before Linux and BSD were available at all, let alone long before it was available to the average user.

It was a different Apple then, too, and not in the best way. Steve Jobs had been booted. John Sculley and Gil Amelio and about 40 different versions of the Macintosh existed with about 10 different setups for each. It was mind boggling.

There were good parts of it, too. For the longest time, Macs could handle CMYK, making it a standard in printing (giving rise to Aldus, now Adobe, and its print-related suite of software) while Microsoft scurried to catch up. Computer maker Power Computing sent their booth staff to Macworld in fatigues ready to fight the good fight. MacMarines, of which I was one in the ’90s, also embraced the same passion as Mac evangelists of all stripes fought for the forces of digital good while Apple circled the wagons with a consistently minuscule, and dropping, user base percentage.

I could go on for days about this. The nouveau Apple users have no idea. No clue whatsoever. You truly had to be there.

Then Power Computing and Umax, making hardware using MacOS, had their licensing agreement yanked when Steve Jobs returned to the helm. This was pretty much the beginning of the end for what Apple was then, and the beginning of what it is now for the hardware-trendsetting juggernaut. Kicked off by a $150 million gift from Microsoft, and with the killing of the Newton (bad move — I still have a MessagePad 120), Jobs immediately put his mark on the company, drove it in the direction he wanted it, and made it what it is today.

I’m not criticizing or laying blame — Jobs did what he did and it is what it is. By Wall Street standards, Apple is a huge success story. However, I clearly don’t agree with the direction Apple took, especially on locking down hardware and software and praying at the altar of the almighty bottom line, but that’s the way it goes.

In a lot of ways, Apple’s odyssey reminds me of the Gentle Giant album, “The Power and the Glory.” Most of you probably don’t know this group — a progressive rock band in the mid-’70s and a contemporary of King Crimson, as a point of reference — but the gist of the album is a series of songs telling the story of someone saying the system must change while finally concluding at the end of the album that the system must not change.

But what does this have to do with Linux or FOSS? For me personally, I started with Linux using Macs.

Back story, maestro: In 2006 I ran for Insurance Commissioner as the Green Party candidate. Putting aside the inside baseball as to why I ran (and won’t do it again), I asked the IT guy for the Green Party if he had any suggestions about software to use for the campaign. He introduced me to Free/Open Source Software, how it worked, and the paradigm behind it. The next day, I was running an iMac on the PowerPC version of Debian.

Since then, I have never used anything but FOSS on all the hardware I’ve owned. For years after I started using Linux, I still used PowerPC Macs because in most cases, the hardware was of a high quality (iMac G5 notwithstanding — what a dog!); at least until I learned to love the IBM ThinkPad.

As for my conversion to FOSS, I may not have been such a strong believer in FOSS if I had not been a Mac user back in the day.

The Apple of today bears absolutely no resemblance of the Apple of the 1980s and 1990s. None. In this case, the fruit has fallen far — very far — from the tree.

See you here next week.

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Fosstafarian by and other works by Larry Cafiero are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Weighing in on SCALE

This time of the year has me preoccupied, occupied, and post-occupied with SCALE 12X, the Southern California Linux Expo, which runs from Feb. 21-23 at the Hilton Los Angeles Airport hotel. Mention my name and get a good price (though, to be honest, it’s a good price whether you mention my name or not).

SCALE is unique in a lot of ways, but perhaps the biggest way that makes SCALE stand out is that it’s an event that easily stands with some of the larger FOSS shows in North America but — wait for it — it’s entirely community run. With an even dozen shows coming up next month, it’s the largest community-run show on the North American continent.

No small feat.

Truth in advertising: As the publicity chairperson for the event, it’s in my best interest to say nice things about SCALE 12X. Yet even if I wasn’t part of the expo, I’d still say nice things because, for the most part, the SCALE Team shows what people from divergent backgrounds — and with different, wide-ranging abilities and talents — can do when focused on one goal: in this case, providing a great vehicle for promoting Free/Open Source Software and hardware to kick off the year in the U.S.

Leslie Hawthorn and Brendan Gregg are keynoting. There are probably 90-something presentations spread out over the three days, with about 100 exhibitors. The range of presentations and tracks runs the gamut from easy-to-grasp for beginners to the most intricate technical sessions for the most seasoned IT veterans. The schedule, which is still being finalized and should be posted soon, will provide a road map to the cornucopia of information that will benefit everyone in attendance.

A lot happens at SCALE — in a good way, of course — and it’s something you should see at least once (at least). SCALE 12X would be a good time, if you haven’t been already, and for those of you who have been before, this year will again be great.

I’ll be there. Will you?

See you here next week.

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Fosstafarian by and other works by Larry Cafiero are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Hello, world

Several years ago, someone asked me to which of the many religion in the world I adhered. Anyone who knows me knows what a silly question this is to ask me, but knowing my affinity for all things Free/Open Source Software, I quickly answered, “Fosstafarian.”

That stuck. That’s on my Facebook page under Religious Views (along with Political Views: People’s Front of Judea). Whenever asked this truly-none-of-your-damn-beeswax question, “Fosstafarian” is my response. Depending on who’s asking, an explanation normally follows, but not always.

So what’s a Fosstafarian? As far as I’m concerned, a Fosstafarian can be described by one or more of the following statements.

If you believe that the wider digital world should remain free and open, and that any threat (however remote) to close it is something to be opposed and fought, you might be a Fosstafarian.

If you believe that the differences between Free Software and Open Source is not the wide abyss some make it out to be, and there is far more that unites Free Software and Open Source advocates than divides them, then you might be a Fosstafarian.

If you call it “GNU/Linux” or “Linux” — or “BSD” or “Unix” — and you don’t care if someone calls it something else, then you might be a Fosstafarian.

This blog, which jokingly is referred to as part of Larry the Free Software Guy’s League of Extraordinary Blogs, will deal mostly with some of the more philosophical aspects of Free/Open Source Software and Hardware and will run on Thursdays.

See you on Thursday.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy, Larry the CrunchBang Guy, Fosstafarian, Larry the Korora Guy, and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and develops business software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)