Noah Meyerhans

The weblog

Linux Fest Northwest

Linux Fest Northwest has been going on for 14 years. For most of those years, I’ve lived in the wrong timezone for it to be worth attending. A couple weeks ago somebody posted to a Seattle area Linux forum asking if anybody else was going to this year’s edition, taking place on the last weekend in April. My memory was jarred, and my excitement kindled. I used to make it to conferences with some regularity, but it’s been several years. This year, Linux Fest Northwest would be easy to get to, and there was no way I was going to miss it.

The night before the fest, it occurred to me that I hadn’t even checked to see if any of my friends would be there. It turns out that there would! It ended up being a great opportunity to catch up with bkero from Mozilla and Saint Aardvark over good food and good beer!

I made it to a few really interesting sessions. Some notable details:

  • The ACLU and EFF panel was informative, despite being down by a third of its planned size due to an illness. It was a decent survey of the current crop of frightening legal and legislative concerns. Mostly it focused on privacy (and threats such as CISPA), but also touched a bit on censorship and related threats such as the currently defunct SOPA. I learned a couple of interesting things about the Fifth Amendment that I’m a little surprised I hadn’t heard before:

    1. The Fifth Amendment doesn’t apply in civil litigation, only criminal litigation.
    2. The Fifth Amendment only applies to self incrimination. That is, you can’t invoke your fifth amendment rights to avoid revealing information that directly links somebody else to a crime.

    None of these is particularly surprising, but they’re not things that most people think about.

  • Russell Pavlicek gave a good talk entitled “Saving an Open Source Project: Lessons Learned from Xen”, in which he examined the rise, fall, and phoenix-like rise again of Xen. Through mis-management on several levels, Xen went from being the virtualization technology for Linux to an afterthought. Many people, distributions, and organizations gave up on it completely. But starting about two years ago, there was a conscious effort made by what remained of the Xen community to correct past mistakes. This effort has met with good success, and Xen has a healthy community growing around it again. Russell shared some valuable wisdom and did so in a very fluid, dynamic, and approachable way. He was easily the best speaker I encountered over the weekend.

Beyond the talks, there was a lively game room and a vendor expo with a bunch of well known companies and organizations. The game room saw a lot of high-energy Armagetron competition along with slower paced games such as Widelands.

All in all, it was a great weekend and I hope to go back next year! Thanks go out to all the volunteers and organizers who made it happen, and to Bellingham Technical College for hosting the event!

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