Linux Fest Northwest – 2017

LinuxFest Northwest, held annually at the Bellingham (WA) Technical College, is a grassroots Open Source Software (OSS) event that has grown year after year to become what is likely one of the largest of the “fests”. With approximately 1,800 attendees (according to their website), it is now one of the most sizable OSS gatherings in the United States. The event has a distinct non-corporate vibe, essential to the community-driven atmosphere.

The fest provides a bunch of standard fare for this type of event – sessions hosted by the subject matter experts, entertainment, vendor booths, and a plethora of stickers and other ephemera (note to self – make sure I have Ubuntu Budgie swag to bring next year). But where it seems to deviate from other conferences is the general attitude of both the attendees and the people working the booths. It appears to be quite laid back with genuine interest in a simple chat. I’ve discussed everything from finding your path for advancement at work, down to hacking your car under a microscope (looking at you Christian). I even had a spirited conversation with a former pastor who moved from California to Oregon to retire and help his son remodel a new living space. And these were just the quick ones. Having chatted previously with people from the OSS community online, other conversations went much further in depth. Martin Wimpress of Ubuntu Mate was more than accommodating with a lengthy discussion on the growing community, how to get involved in the larger Ubuntu ecosystem (outside the confines of one of the flavours), the difficulties he had encountered early on, and so much more. Christian Hergert of Redhat/Gnome and I got into discussions about former employers, reverse engineering, and even some of the upcoming changes in his projects. Ryan Sipes of System 76 is very passionate about growing the community in the spirit of OpenSource, which I can only imagine could be rough when you are doing so as part of a business entity. He was one of the first I met (literally came and found me in the registration line to hang out) and was the person who walked me out the door. This lead to an additional 45-minute conversation that had nothing to do with OSS, the weekend, or the like.

It all came down to getting to know people. The real takeaway here at LFNW was having the opportunity for face time, which can be difficult to achieve in a community working remotely over a vast geographical area. Being able to put a face to an online handle, and more importantly a real name to a real human is always not to be taken for granted. It’s the people who make all of this great stuff in F/OSS happen.

Other Highlights

  • Met some of the Jupiter Broadcasting crew, and was able to attend the live finale of the 11 years run on the Linux Action Show.
  • I got to check out the System 76 Galago laptop which I’m strongly considering for purchase.
  • System 76 BBQ
  • BBQ back at the JB Studio
  • Games night!

We added a small LFNW 2017 photo gallery here  that you can check out.