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Ohio Linuxfest 2019 Review

I attended Ohio Linuxfest ( OLF ) for the first time last weekend. I enjoyed the event and got to meet new people.

That’s one of the cool things about OLF, they organized the layout in a way that’s conductive to meeting attendees. The conference rooms are in a row, but in two different wings. At the intersection between the wings sits the registration area. That makes a natural congregation point right in the middle. The area is also wide in both directions. There’s a large seating section in one corner with tables and couches.

Opposite the seating section is the expo room, also situated between the talks. Putting the expo room in the middle is great for the booths. As a member of LOPSA, one of the represented non-profits, I was glad to see easy access for people coming out of talks. As an attendee, I was glad to have easy access when coming out of talks. While at the FSF table I purchased some stickers. I gave away one of my new Antisurveillance Webcam stickers during my talk.

There are also places to get away from the crowd if you need to concentrate or just need some alone time. As an introvert, the latter is important to me. As someone who always re-works presentations until the last moment the former is important :). I believe OLF had a green room for speakers. I didn’t need it as the public areas were great.

OLF had 52 speakers this year, as announced at the final keynote. They also mentioned they had 9 core volunteers and several day of volunteers. Putting on a recurring conference is a big job for 9 people. Thanks to them and the crucial day of volunteers who made a great conference for those of us attending.

Columbus has a nice bus service between the airport and the arena district. It’s only a few bucks and has a dropoff near the Hyatt, which hosted OLF. On the bus over a woman attending a different conference gave me a rundown of the bus service. They also have a bus that covers the arena district strip. I didn’t have time to explore this time as I flew in mid-conference. Perhaps next time if OLF doesn’t directly coincide with Halloween.

As it was, the conference was rather self-contained. In addition to the talks and evening BoF sessions, OLF provided lunch both days. There was also an after event party Saturday night. Friday night there were tacos in the exhibit hall, which was especially great when I got in mid-evening.

A fun happenstance of the conference for me was that {der.hans_talk_url}[my privacy talk] flowed into the two factor authentication talk after mine. My talk, like the Linux Journal article that came from it, covers securing your online accounts and using a password manager to track everything. Part of my talk covers multi-factor authentication.

With his 2FA talk, Cornelius got me to realize I need update a few things in my talk. I also learned several things from his talk. A couple are new homework tasks for me. Afterwards I got to chat with him a little and we had a couple longer talks at he wrap up party. Those types of connections really are an important part of conferences. We affectionately call it the hallway track.

The OLF attendees were quite nice. I got many thank yous throughout the remaining conference after my talk. Several people also sought me out with follow-up questions. A few Mastodon members also swung by to say hi.

The final keynote was Jon "Maddog" Hall giving a 50 year history of UNIX. He was quite knowledgeable and entertaining.

As an aside, Hall was also knowledgeable and entertaining the first time I saw him. The local SAGE ( USENIX' System Administrator’s Guild ) chapter brought Hall to town. That was the presentation that finally got me to show up to an event rather than just lurking on the mailing list. Hall’s presentation included the importance of community and inspired me to start participating more. That prompted me start attending SAGE meetings and also to join the local LUG. I now do a few more things than just attend meetings :).

As an aside to the aside, SAGE is somewhat a precursor to LOPSA. Many of us were frustrated limitations from USENIX and split off to build LOPSA. SAGE still exists and many people still participate in both groups. LOPSA wanted to do something more. As a founding member of LOPSA, I was glad to see the table at OLF and hear about the local chapter there in Columbus.

Hall pointed out that UNIX and Linus were both born 50 years ago this year. Hall’s beard was as well, but I didn’t get the opportunity to ask him about that story. He covered the birth of portable UNIX. He covered the birth of the Free Software movement. He covered the start of the Linux kernel and his role in creating some opportunities for Linus.

Hall finished off his presentation by reminding us, the community, that we are the most important part of Free Software. He reminded us we’re integral to not only the creation of Free Software, but also to that software thriving in the world. He suggested that next year we bring two proprietary OS users to OLF.

If you’re not participating in a local group, please start participating. Better yet, volunteer by presenting or helping run the group. If you don’t have any local groups, please start one. Please also seek out local and regional conferences to attend. Bring some friends.

So, thanks to OLF and thanks to Jon for reminding me how I got started and why I got involved. Thanks to both as well for providing a great event and a chance to see another regional conference supporting the Free Software community.